Pregnancy in heart transplant recipients

Pregnancy in heart transplant recipients

Pregnancy in Heart Transplant Recipients R. Miniero, MD,a I. Tardivo, MD,a P. Centofanti, MD,b C. Goggi, MD,c C. Mammana, MD,d F. Parisi, MD,e and A. ...

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Pregnancy in Heart Transplant Recipients R. Miniero, MD,a I. Tardivo, MD,a P. Centofanti, MD,b C. Goggi, MD,c C. Mammana, MD,d F. Parisi, MD,e and A. M. Dall’Omo, MDf The aim of this report is to present data from Italian cardiac transplant centers assessing pregnancy after cardiac transplantation. Our retrospective survey included 10 pregnancies occurring in 7 patients during January 1991 to February 2002. Eight pregnancies were completed successfully and 2 abortions were reported (frequency rate 20%). No complications were observed during pregnancy or after delivery. Of 8 infants studied, 6 (75%) were born at term and 2 (25%) pre-term. One baby presented congenital talipes valgus. Pediatric development was uneventful. The data from the literature and our series show that a multidisciplinary approach is mandatory. The course of pregnancy is usually normal and the maternal and fetal outcomes are usually favorable. Although no fetal malformations have been reported, prolonged follow-up of these infants is required. J Heart Lung Transplant 2004; 23:898 –901.

Advances in surgical techniques and immunosuppressive therapy have rendered cardiac transplantation a reliable therapeutic option in the treatment of end-stage heart diseases.1,2 Currently, the survival rate at 5 years post-transplant exceed 85%.3–5 Consequently, the indications for heart transplantation have increased. The procedure is being done more often on younger patients for whom there is no alternative therapeutic solution. Heart-transplanted women often lead a normal lifestyle. They may desire pregnancy and can have children. Providing sufficient advice in terms of the risk that pregnancy represents for the patient and that of the fetus is difficult. In addition to the ethical issues concerning the uncertain life expectancy of patients, there are a number of purely medical issues regarding maternal and fetal welfare that must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In 1988, Lo ¨ wenstein and colleagues reported the first successful pregnancy after cardiac transplantation.3 However, information on the course and outcome of pregnancy in heart transplant recipients is still very limited.6

From the aDepartment of Pediatrics, University of Turin, San Luigi Hospital, Orbassano, Turin; bDepartment of Cardiac Surgery and Heart Transplant, University of Turin, San Giovanni Battista Hospital, Turin; cDepartment of Cardiac Surgery and Heart Transplant, IRCCS San Matteo, Pavia; dDepartment of Cardiac Surgery and Heart Transplant, Ospedali Riuniti, Bergamo; eDepartment of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, Pediatric Hospital “Bambino Gesu ` ,” Rome; and f Department of Transplant Immunology, San Giovanni Battista Hospital, University of Turin, Turin, Italy. Submitted January 27, 2003; revised August 4, 2003; accepted August 7, 2003. Reprint requests: Roberto Miniero, MD, Department of Pediatrics, San Luigi Hospital, Orbassano, Regione Gonzole 10, 10043 Orbassano (TO), Italy. Telephone: ⫹39-011-9026506. Fax: ⫹39-011-3499382. E-mail: [email protected] Copyright © 2004 by the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. 1053-2498/04/$–see front matter. doi:10.1016/ j.healun.2003.08.002


The purpose of this study is to assess the results of a survey conducted by our group and to review the literature data. MATERNAL RISKS Three classes of maternal risk— cardiovascular, infectious and immune—are associated with post– hearttransplantation pregnancy. Cardiovascular Risks Physiologic responses to pregnancy and delivery vary among cardiac transplant recipients. Pregnancy induces hemodynamic changes such as an increased cardiac workload.7 As compared with before conception, blood volume increases by 40% and cardiac output increases by 30%, with marked maternal oxygen consumption both at rest and during exercise.8,9 The denervated cardiac transplant is known to respond to increased demand through 2 atypical physiologic adaptive mechanisms: (1) increased stroke volume in response to the higher central venous pressure and volume; and (2) increased heart rate and contractility in response to increased circulating catecholamines. Gestational hemodynamic changes could represent a risk for a transplanted heart, although these pregnancy/delivery-induced hemodynamic changes are usually welltolerated.9,10 Some of the women studied underwent heart transplantation for peri-partum cardiomyopathy. This is an idiopathic condition that develops either in the third trimester of pregnancy or in the first 6 months after delivery. Because the risk of recurrence and mortality rates are high, these patients are advised to avoid having more children.11–13 Rejection Pregnancy is often considered a “privileged” immunologic state, and thus it may be surprising that the

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incidence of rejection is not lower than in non-pregnant recipients. No rebound increase in rejection rate has been reported in the post-partum period.10 Another possibility is that the mother could be allosensitized by the fetus, which in turn determines an augmented immune response during pregnancy. Although there is no evidence that the incidence of rejection increases in renal allograft recipients, the risk for cardiac allograft recipients is still not clear.8,14 Immunosuppressive therapy must be continued at unchanged doses throughout the entire pregnancy to prevent toxicity or rejection. There is a general consensus that antibiotic prophylaxis is mandatory in the case of cesarean section or vaginal operative delivery, but it is also advisable in spontaneous vaginal delivery.13,15 Infectious Risks Immunosuppressive therapy leads to an increased exposure to bacterial, viral, mycotic and opportunistic infections.11–13,17 During pregnancy, these infections may represent a serious risk for both the mother and fetus.6 Rigorous asepsis is recommended when performing a vaginal examination during pregnancy and labor; if an infection is suspected, cultures and antibiotics are advisable.16 FETAL RISKS Viral infections after immunosuppressive therapy can be a major complication in heart transplant patients.19 During pregnancy these infections may cause viremia.20 Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Rubella infections—the former being frequent in transplant recipients—require some attention. CMV remains quiescent after primary infection but factors such immunosuppression, rejection or pregnancy-related hormonal changes may result in its reactivation.21 When early primary infection occurs, termination of pregnancy is generally not necessary.22,23 The abortion rate in cardiac graft recipients is not higher than in the general population.6,24 Pregnancy outcome does not seem to be influenced by the transplant-to-pregnancy time interval but rather by the patient’s clinical conditions and cardiovascular functions.11 No frequent or predominant fetal anomalies have been reported. Theoretically, a fetus should be protected from azathioprine teratogenic effects because it lacks the enzyme that can convert azathioprine to its active metabolite. Cyclosporine is teratogenic in animals only when high doses are administered.10 To our knowledge, 86 cases of pregnancy after heart transplantation have been reported so far.6,25–32 The largest survey was carried out by the U.S. National Transplant Registry, which included 47 pregnancies. Of


these, 35 women were in their first pregnancy and 12 had previous deliveries.6,30 LITERATURE REVIEW A review of the literature up to the year 2002 revealed 86 cases of pregnancy after cardiac transplantation. Eleven women underwent therapeutic abortion (12.4%), whereas in 7 patients miscarriage occurred (7.9%). In 22 cases (42.1%) the infants were pre-term (2 sets of twins), whereas 32 were born at term (57.9%) (1 set of twins). The most frequent maternal complications were hypertension, infection and pre-eclampsia. Immunosuppressive therapy included cyclosporine, azathioprine and steroids. Maternal age, the time interval elapsed from transplant, and the type of delivery were not recorded in all instances. The literature data show that pregnancy should be monitored through serial clinical examinations, ultrasound scans and laboratory tests.6,13,18,33,34 However, full attention must be given to monitoring cardiac function and also to prophylaxis and therapy of rejection and infection.35,36 In addition, fetal growth and morphology require close observation. All women presented with good cardiac function. In the largest series reported, 12 cases of rejection were observed in 8 pregnancies: 3 recipients were been treated with steroids, whereas the remaining patients did not receive anti-rejection therapy.33,34 Two of the 8 recipients who rejected the graft during or after pregnancy died. No structural malformations were identified; however, small-for-gestational-age (SGA) babies are frequently born after immunosuppressive therapy, with consequent neonatal risk. In 1 of the aforementioned series reported in the literature the percentage of infants with SGA was 23.5%. Neonatal complications were more common in premature newborns than in full-term babies. Prematurity incidence increased with subsequent pregnancies but did not reach statistical significance. Complications included respiratory distress, jaundice, patent ductus arteriosus, fetal hypotrophy and anemia. The daughter of 1 patient was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. The lack of data concerning the long-term effects of immunosuppressive therapy must be emphasized, and therefore infants must be monitored for a prolonged period. CASE REPORT Data regarding pregnancy after heart transplantation as observed by the Italian cardiac transplant centers, were collected for assessment of outcome (complications, miscarriages, stillbirths, therapeutic abortions and live births). Also, data were collected for pre– heart-trans-


plantation pregnancies at term and miscarriages/therapeutic abortions. A retrospective evaluation of the data obtained via questionnaires, hospital records and telephone interviews was then carried out. Finally information was obtained about the mother’s follow-up as a function of transplant rejection risk, time interval from transplantation to pregnancy and drugs received during the pregnancy. General health and detailed follow-up data for the infants were obtained, These findings were collected through telephone interviews with the mother and/or pediatrician. The following factors were evaluated: type of delivery (natural childbirth or by cesarean section) and the baby’s weight, length, head circumference, Apgar score and values during labor. Data concerning growth, vaccinations and allergic reactions; eventual laboratory tests; and the last measured height and weight were also obtained. RESULTS Four of the 14 heart transplant centers in Italy compiled and returned the questionnaires, 4 centers did not have post– heart transplantation pregnancies and 6 did not respond to our request. Our survey included 10 pregnancies observed in 7 patients from January 1991 to July 2002. Eight pregnancies were completed successfully, and 2 miscarriages were reported (frequency rate 20%). The average time from transplantation to childbirth was 83 months (range 49 to 145 months). All patients received immunosuppressive therapy during their pregnancy, which consisted of cyclosporine (CsA) in 6 patients and CsA and azathioprine (AZA) in 2 patients. At the time of transplant, the average age of the patients was 23.7 years (range 15 to 29.11 years); the average age at delivery was 29.6 years (range 21 to 37 years). None of the patients had had children before cardiac transplantation. No complications were observed during pregnancy (except 1 case of tachyarrhythmia) or after delivery. Of these 8 babies, 6 (75%) were born at term and 2 (25%) pre-term. The overall mean gestational age was 38.3 weeks (range 36 to 41 weeks). In all cases a cesarean section was performed. The mean birth weight was 2,929.7 g (range 2,500 to 3,600 g). Mean length was 49.2 cm (range 46 to 52 cm). Mean head circumference was 35.5 cm (range 35 to 36 cm). The Apgar score ranged between 8/10 and 10/10. No complications were observed. Mean cyclosporinemia was 142 ng/ml in the mothers (range 80 to 190 ng/ml) and 51 ng/ml in the newborns (range 12 to 90 ng/ml; non-determinable in 2 cases). No baby was breastfed, because the immunosuppressive drugs can be secreted in the mother’s milk.

The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation July 2004

All babies were vaccinated and no side effects were observed. The development of all babies was uneventful (follow-up 6 months to 11 years). DISCUSSION The data resulting from both the literature and our series show that management of pregnancy in heart transplant recipients is not very different from that of a healthy woman. However, it should be emphasized that a multidisciplinary approach is mandatory.40 – 42 The course of pregnancy is usually normal, and the maternal and fetal outcomes are usually favorable. Although no fetal malformations have been reported, prolonged follow-up of these babies is mandatory. The long-term effects of immunosuppressive therapy, including risk of malignancies and potential effects, on reproduction, are unknown. Classen et al reported that the incidence of autoimmune diseases may be higher in the offspring of patients treated with cyclosporine.39,43 As for timing and route of delivery, a heart-transplanted woman can theoretically undergo a vaginal delivery at term.37,38 Cesarean section is advised when obstetric indications are present. Finally, immunosuppressed patients are usually discouraged from breastfeeding to prevent any possible risk to the infant. The long-term results of cardiac transplantation should be considered when counseling these women, as well as the etiology of the cardiac disease, because the inheritance of certain conditions (e.g., cardiomyopathy) is well established. REFERENCES 1. Jamieson SW, Ogumarke HO. Cardiopulmonary transplantation. Surg Clin N Am 1986;66:491–501. 2. Schroeder JS, Hunt SA. Cardiac transplantation: where are we? N Engl J Med 1986;315:961E–3. 3. Kirk P. Organ transplantation and pregnancy. A case report and review. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1991;164:1629 – 34. 4. Kaye MP. The Registry of International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation: ninth official report—1992. J Heart Lung Transplant 1992;11:506 –606. 5. Krakauer H, Shekar SS, Kaye MP. The relationship of clinical outcomes to status at a Medicare-approved heart transplant centre. Transplantation 1995;59:840 –6. 6. Morini A, Spina V, Oleandri V, Cantonetti G, Lambiasi A, Papalia U. Pregnancy after heart transplant: update and case report. Hum Reprod 1998;13:749 –57. 7. Pescetto G, De Cecco L, Pecorari D. Fisiologia della gravidanza. In: Manuale di Ginecologia e Ostetricia Societa`. Rome: Editrice Universo; 1989,pp 805–7. 8. Wagoner LE, Taylor DO, Olsen SL, Price GD, Rasmussen LG, Larsen CB. Immunosuppressive therapy, management and outcome of heart transplant recipients during pregnancy. J Heart Lung Transplant 1994;13:993–1000.

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