During the past decade, the morbidity and mortality associated with cardiac transplantation have decreased dramatically. The current survival for patients who undergo orthotopic cardiac transplantation is 80 to 90% at 1 year and 70 to 80% at 5 years; these results are attributed chiefly to improved immunosuppression and the consequent decrease in infectious illnesses and rejection. Because surgical mortality and technique have not changed appreciably during the past 20 years, improved survival can be ascribed to advances in the medical management of recipients of cardiac transplants. Medical problems frequently encountered in such patients include allograft rejection, allograft vasculopathy, hypertension, renal dysfunction, hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, malignant disorders, general surgical disease, and osteopenic bone disease. Hence, the expertise needed for management of patients who undergo cardiac transplantation is not confined to a particular specialty—optimal care necessitates the integrated efforts of a team, including transplant physicians and personnel to provide broad subspecialty and laboratory support. Meticulous management with proactive intervention and minimal effective immunosuppression will prevent or ameliorate many problems and contribute to increased survivorship and improved quality of life. For additional substantive improvement in long-term survival and quality of life for recipients of cardiac allografts, multicenter, prospective, and placebo-controlled clinical investigations will be necessary.
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