Heart Transplants May Avoid Some Biopsies

CHICAGO, April 22 (UPI) — A 602-patient trial demonstrated a non-invasive gene test may help those with heart transplants to avoid some biopsies, U.S. researchers said.

Co-lead investigator Dr. Michael Pham, a transplant cardiologist at the Stanford University Medical Center and Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, said those with heart transplants must undergo invasive and often uncomfortable biopsies — typically 12 biopsies in the first year and four the second year with continued surveillance for several more years — to monitor their immune systems to see if they are rejecting the new heart.

“We found that patients undergoing rejection monitoring using a gene-expression profiling test of peripheral blood specimens underwent significantly fewer biopsies and were more satisfied with the biopsy-minimization approach compared to patients who underwent routine biopsies at regular intervals,” Pham said in a statement.

“Patients in both groups experienced similar rates of clinically apparent rejection, cardiac dysfunction, death or the need for a second transplant.”

The findings are published online ahead of print of the June 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The findings were also presented Thursday at the International Society for Heart & Lung Transplantation 30th anniversary meeting & scientific sessions in Chicago.

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