Antibody-mediated rejection is the B-cell–mediated production of immunoglobulin G antibody against the transplanted heart. The currently available therapies for antibody-mediated rejection have had marginal success, and chronic manifestations of rejection can result in an increased risk of graft vasculopathy and perhaps require repeat transplantation. Rituximab, a monoclonal antibody directed against the CD20 receptor of B-lymphocytes and approved as therapy for lymphoma, can be used in heart-transplant patients for the management of antibody-mediated rejection.
We present the case of a 52-year-old woman with high allosensitization (pre-transplantation panel reactive antibody level, 72%) who underwent successful orthotopic heart transplantation. Postoperatively, her acute antibody-mediated rejection with concomitant cellular rejection was successfully treated with low-dose rituximab. The patient died 5 months later because of multiple other medical problems. The present case suggests a role for low-dose rituximab as therapy for antibody-mediated rejection in heart-transplant patients.