The impact of steroid withdrawal on the development of lipid abnormalities and obesity in heart transplant recipients

K. D. Lake, T. J. Reutzel, M. R. Pritzker, C. R. Jorgensen, R. W. Emery, R. Wilson

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32 Scopus citations


Hyperlipidemia and obesity are common problems after heart transplantation, which may increase the risk of chronic graft atherosclerosis. The intent of this study was to (1) determine the impact of a history of hyperlipidemia on the occurrence of lipid abnormalities after transplantation, (2) compare lipid profiles of those patients being treated with triple-drug immunosuppression versus those patients weaned from prednisone therapy, and (3) identify any factors that would predict which patients are at highest risk for the development of hyperlipidemia after transplantation. Of 89 patients who lived for more than 12 months, 35 patients had a history of hyperlipidemia before heart transplantation (cholesterol level of more than 240 mg/dl; low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level of more than 160 mg/dl). The most dramatic rise in cholesterol level was observed in patients with no history of hyperlipidemia who were treated with triple-drug immunosuppression, in whom a 64% increase occurred versus a 24% increase in patients receiving steroid-free immunosuppression (p < 0.001). In patients with a history of hyperlipidemia, cholesterol level increased by 20% with triple-drug immunosuppression versus 14% with steroid-free immunosuppression (p = 0.613); however, 83% of the patients in the triple-drug group and 92% in the steroid-free group had elevated cholesterol levels. Multiple regression analysis revealed that significant independent and additive (p < 0.00001) contributions with respect to percent change in cholesterol level were evident for (1) a negative history of hyperlipidemia (p = 0.005), (2) triple-drug immunosuppression (p = 0.0021), and (3) female sex (p = 0.0113). A negative history of hyperlipidemia was predictive of the percent change in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level (p = 0.0049), and triple-drug immunosuppression administration predicted the percent change in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (p = 0.0119). Patients with a positive history of hyperlipidemia had higher lipid values at 12 and 24 months after transplantation; however, patients with no previous history of hyperlipidemia experienced the greatest percent change in both cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels. Patients receiving prednisone therapy gained more weight (9.0 ± 7.0 kg) as compared with those patients tapered from prednisone therapy (5.9 ± 8.6 kg); however, neither the increase in actual weight (p = 0.120) nor the increase in percent ideal body weight (14% ± 11% versus 9% ± 13%, respectively) were significant (p = 0.133). This study identified that postoperative weight gain is best predicted by premorbid habitus, rather than the type of immunosuppression used. Based on these findings, an aggressive strategy is needed in all patients to prevent posttransplantation obesity and to manage posttransplantation hyperlipidemia, especially those with a premorbid history of either condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-590
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993


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