Risk Factors for and Management of Post-Transplantation Cardiovascular Disease
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- Fellström, B. BioDrugs (2001) 15: 261. doi:10.2165/00063030-200115040-00006
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The mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in transplant recipients are greater than in the general population. CVD is a major cause of both graft loss and patient death in renal transplant recipients, and improving cardiovascular health in transplant recipients will presumably help to extend both patient and graft survival. Further studies are needed to better evaluate the effectiveness of risk modification on subsequent CVD morbidity and mortality.
There is no reason to consider risk factors for CVD such as hyperlipidaemia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus in transplant recipients differently from in the general population. In addition, there are specific transplantation risk factors such as acute rejection episodes and the use of immunosuppressive drugs. It is obvious that several of the immunosuppressive agents used today have disadvantageous influences on risk factors for CVD such as hyperlipidaemia, hypertension and post-transplantation diabetes mellitus (PTDM), but the relative importance of immunosuppressant-induced increases in these risk factors is basically unknown. This may be a strong argument for the selective use and individual tailoring of immunosuppressive agents based upon the risk factor profile of the patient, without jeopardising the function of the graft.
Hyperlipidaemia is common after transplantation, and immunosuppression with corticosteroids, cyclosporin, or sirolimus (rapamycin) causes different types of post-transplantation hyperlipidaemia. However, to date, no studies have demonstrated that lipid lowering strategies significantly reduce CVD morbidity or mortality and improve allograft survival in transplant recipients. Several studies using preventive or interventional approaches are ongoing and will be reported in the near future.
Post-transplantation hypertension appears to be a major risk factor determining graft and patient survival, and immunosuppressive agents have different effects on hypertension. Controlled studies support the opinion that post-transplantation hypertension must be treated as strictly as in a population with essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or chronic renal failure.
As increasing numbers of immunosuppressive agents become available for use, we may be in a better position to tailor immunosuppressive therapy to the individual patient, avoiding the use of diabetogenic drugs, drug combinations, or inappropriate doses in patients susceptible to PTDM.
Multiple acute rejection episodes have also been demonstrated to be a risk factor for CVD — a strong argument for the use of immunosuppressive drugs to reduce acute rejection.
Until we have a better understanding from ongoing landmark studies on the management of CVD, presently available therapy to reduce risk factors needs to be used together with individual tailoring of immunosuppressive therapy with the aim of reducing CVD in these patients.