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Tacrolimus-based triple-drug immunosuppression minimizes serum lipid elevations in pediatric cardiac transplant recipients

The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s1053-2498(99)00023-6
  • Medicine


Abstract Background: Immunosuppression with corticosteroids and cyclosporine has been associated with hyperlipidemia, a risk factor for post-transplant coronary artery disease. The recent development of tacrolimus has created an alternative to cyclosporine-based triple drug immunotherapy. One potential benefit that has been reported in patients receiving tacrolimus is a minimization of elevation of both total and LDL cholesterol, compared to those increases observed in patients receiving cyclosporine-based immunosuppression. It is unclear in previous studies whether this beneficial effect is related to tacrolimus directly or to its corticosteroid sparing potential. To study this relationship, we compared lipid profiles from pediatric cardiac transplant recipients treated with corticosteroids, and either cyclosporine or tacrolimus. Methods The study group consisted of 23 patients (mean age = 12.3 years) with pre-transplant and serial post-transplant determinations of total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Patients were separated into 4 study groups, defined by immunosuppressive regimen (cyclosporine vs. tacrolimus) and prednisone dose (>0.10 mg/kg/day vs ≤0.10 mg/kg/day). Results Patients who received cyclosporine and higher doses of prednisone experienced a mean 74 mg/dl increase from baseline in total cholesterol ( p = .0001). None of the other 3 treatment groups demonstrated a statistically significant elevation. Similar trends were observed in LDL and triglyceride alterations between the 4 study groups. Interestingly, patients treated with tacrolimus and higher doses of prednisone demonstrated a significant rise in HDL from baseline ( p = .0001), although those who received cyclosporine and higher dose prednisone failed to exhibit this rise. Conclusion The minimal degree of lipid alteration seen in patients receiving tacrolimus and higher doses of prednisone indicates that this effect was not solely based upon the steroid-sparing properties of tacrolimus therapy. The data also suggests a possible synergistic effect between cyclosporine and higher doses of prednisone on hyperlipidemia. Therefore, in pediatric patients requiring higher corticosteroid doses late after transplantation, use of tacrolimus rather than cyclosporine may lead to more favorable lipid profiles and help minimize the risk of post-transplant coronary arteriopathy.

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