Monitoring and long-term outcomes in vascularized composite allotransplantation

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Purpose of reviewThe field of vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA) is young, with less than 150 transplants worldwide. However, we now possess as much as 14 years of clinical follow-up. There are similarities and distinct differences between solid-organ transplantation (SOT) and VCA. This review will summarize how VCA recipients are monitored, outcomes observed, and what aspects are unique to VCA.Recent findingsOf about 90 documented cases, 10% of VCA recipients are out more than 10 years and 14% are out 5 or more years. There have been both graft losses and patient mortality. In most cases, these losses have been acute, most within the first year, and all within 3 years. Unlike SOT, VCA grafts function well during severe rejection. Chronic rejection-like sequelae are less frequent than in SOT, but do appear. Immunosuppression ranges from standard protocols to novel trials aimed at immunosuppression minimization. Patient selection greatly affects the outcome. Graft loss after year 1 is associated with compliance issues.SummaryFunctional outcomes have exceeded expectations. VCA recipients enjoy a quality of life not achievable with conventional reconstruction. Outstanding long-term results of more than a decade have been achieved. Monitoring of VCA patients will require new strategies to incorporate external visualization and effects of environment on rejection. Graft loss has occurred early, suggesting we focus improvement on this time period. More follow-up is needed to determine the rates and targets of chronic rejection, and the characteristics of VCA unique to face vs. hand transplantation.

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