1 Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee.
IMPORTANCE: For patients awaiting heart transplant, hepatitis C-positive donors offer an opportunity to expand the donor pool, shorten wait times, and decrease wait-list mortality. While early reported outcomes among few heart transplant recipients have been promising, knowledge of 1-year outcomes in larger cohorts of patients is critical to shared decision-making with patients about this option.
OBJECTIVE: To better define the association of hepatitis C-positive donors with heart transplant volumes, wait-list duration, the transmission and cure of donor-derived hepatitis C, and morbidity and mortality at 1 year.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This was a prospective, single-center observational study of 80 adult (age 18 years or older) patients who underwent heart transplant using hearts from hepatitis C-positive donors between September 2016 and April 2019 at a large academic medical center. Among donors, who were considered hepatitis C-positive if results from hepatitis Cantibody and/or nucleic acid testing were positive, 70 had viremia and 10 were seropositive but did not have viremia. Follow-up was available through May 15, 2019. Comparisons were drawn with patients who underwent transplant with hearts from hepatitis C-negative donors during the same period.
EXPOSURES: In addition to standard posttransplant management, transplant recipients who developed donor-derived hepatitis Cinfection were treated with direct-acting antivirals.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The main outcomes included wait-list duration and 1-year survival in all patients, and for those who developed donor-derived hepatitis C, the response to direct-acting antiviral treatment.
RESULTS: Of 80 patients, 57 (71.3%) were men, 55 (68.7%) were white, and 17 (26.3%) were black; the median age at transplant was 54.5 years (interquartile range, 46-62 years). Following consent to accept hearts from hepatitis C-exposed donors, the median days to heart transplant was 4 (interquartile range, 1-18). No recipients of donors with negative nucleic acid testing results (10 [12.5%]) developed donor-derived hepatitis C. Of 70 patients who were recipients of donors with positive nucleic acid testing results, 67 (95.7%) developed donor-derived hepatitis C over a median follow-up of 301 days (interquartile range, 142-617). Treatment with direct-acting antivirals was well tolerated and yielded sustained virologic responses in all treated patients. Within the cohort with infection, 1-year patient survival was 90.4%, which was not significantly different compared with the cohort without infection or with patients who received transplants from hepatitis C-negative donors during the same period.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In the era of direct-acting antivirals, hepatitis C-positive donors are a viable option to expand the donor pool, potentially reducing wait-list duration and mortality. In heart transplant recipients with donor-derived hepatitis C, infection is well-tolerated and curable, and 1-year survival is equivalent to that in recipients of hepatitis C-negative donors.