Role of Flow Cytometry to Define Unacceptable HLA Antigens in Lung Transplant Recipients with HLA-Specific Antibodies

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Abstract

Background.

Antidonor HLA-specific antibodies have been associated with hyperacute rejection and primary graft failure in lung transplant recipients. Thus, transplant candidates with HLA-specific antibodies generally undergo prospective crossmatching to exclude donors with unacceptable HLA antigens. However, the need to perform a prospective crossmatch limits the donor pool and is associated with increased waiting list times and mortality. A virtual crossmatch strategy using flow cytometry, which enables precise determination of HLA-specific antibody specificity, was compared to prospective crossmatching in sensitized lung transplant candidates.

Methods.

In all, 341 lung transplant recipients were analyzed retrospectively (April 1992 to July 2003). Sixteen patients with HLA-specific antibodies underwent transplantation based on flow cytometric determination of antibody specificity and 10 underwent prospective crossmatching.

Results.

Freedom from bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS) at three years was similar in those undergoing a virtual crossmatch, those undergoing prospective crossmatching, and those without HLA-specific antibodies (80.4%±13.4, 85.7%±13.2, and 73.8%±2.8, respectively, P=0.88). Three-year survival was also comparable (87.5%±8.3, 70.0%±14.5, and 78.5%±2.4, respectively, P=0.31). Elimination of prospective crossmatching for sensitized patients was associated with a significant decrease in time on the waiting list (P<0.01) and in waiting list mortality (P<0.05). All 16 patients undergoing a virtual crossmatch had negative retrospective crossmatches.

Conclusions.

By carefully determining the specificity of HLA-specific antibodies, flow cytometry methodologies enable the prediction of negative crossmatch results with up to 100% accuracy, enabling the determination of appropriateness of donors. Using this virtual crossmatch strategy, crossmatching can be safely omitted prior to lung transplantation, thereby decreasing waiting list time and mortality rates for candidates with HLA-specific antibodies.

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