Coronary artery disease in the transplanted heart limits the long-term success of cardiac transplantation. Intravascular ultrasound studies reveal a dual morphology with donor-transmitted and de novo plaques. Coronary vasomotor dysfunction may occur independently of morphological alterations. The disease is characterized by the interaction of activated T lymphocytes with cytokines and donor epicardial and microvascular endothelium. Various noxious stimuli contribute to the continuing inflammatory response. Consequently, adhesion molecule expression is upregulated, leukocytes migrate into the allograft, thrombocytes accumulate, and growth factors are expressed, finally resulting in functional and morphological chronic allograft lesions. Blocking the activation of T cells, CD4+ cytokines, and adhesion molecules may prevent endothelial injury and subsequent intimal thickening. Strategies to decrease the formation of antiendothelial and anti-HLA-DR antibodies may also be protective, as may antiproliferative drugs, augmentation of endogenous nitric oxide bioactivity, and new immunosuppressive regimens. Revascularization procedures have a limited role in treating significant focal lesions. Retransplantation, the only definitive treatment, remains ethically controversial.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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