LAS VEGAS (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS)The experience at one major heart transplantation center indicates that annual screening dobutamine stress echocardiography to detect cardiac allograft vasculopathy renders annual coronary angiography unnecessary.

“This noninvasive method has very good specificity and is associated with a negative predictive value of 94%-97%. It can be used in our experience in lieu of annual invasive coronary angiography,” Dr. Jerry D. Estep declared at the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Society of America.

Cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) is a unique, highly aggressive form of CAD. After 3 years post transplant it becomes the No. 1 cause of cardiac retransplantation and mortality. Guidelines recommend consideration of annual screening coronary angiography to detect it early to institute aggressive countermeasures. That’s the practice at most transplant centers.

However, at Houston Methodist Hospital, where Dr. Estep is medical director of the heart transplant and LVAD program, annual dobutamine stress echocardiography (DSE) is used instead. Because there is a scarcity of published data on this noninvasive alternative approach, he presented a retrospective study of the Houston transplant center’s experience over a recent 5-year period.

The study included 144 heart transplant recipients who underwent screening DSE for CAV annually for the first 4 years post transplant and coronary angiography at year 5.

During years 1-4, DSE detected CAV in 19% of patients. They didn’t differ in terms of baseline characteristics from those who remained free of this serious complication.

The good news: Ninety-four percent of patients with normal DSEs during years 1-4 had no CAV upon angiography at year 5. Moreover, the 5% who did have CAV at year 5 after earlier negative DSEs had mild to moderate disease.

The investigators documented the performance of annual screening DSE in predicting the development of major adverse cardiac events, defined as readmission for acute coronary syndrome, heart failure, revascularization, repeat heart transplantation, or cardiac death.

Dr. Estep reported having no financial conflicts regarding this study.