Diabetes Shouldn't Keep Patients From Heart Transplant

But diabetic damage to organs can be a disqualifying factor, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 8, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Diabetes alone should not disqualify a person from being considered for a heart transplant, U.S. researchers conclude.

They found that it is the severity of diabetes damage to the body, not the illness itself, that plays the critical role in heart transplant success.

"The question is not whether a person has diabetes, but how much damage the diabetes has done. A person should not be disqualified from transplantation solely because of diabetes," study co-author Dr. Mark Russo, of Columbia University's International Center for Health Outcomes and Innovation Research in New York, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues analyzed post-transplant survival of more than 20,000 people, (average age 52) who had heart transplants in the United States between 1995 and 2005. Of those patients, 3,687 had diabetes at the time of their transplant.

The study found that heart transplant patients with uncomplicated diabetes lived as long as non-diabetic heart transplant patients.

However, heart transplant patients with severe diabetes organ-related damage, such as a history of kidney disease or stroke, had significantly worse long-term survival than patients with no diabetes.

The findings were published in the current issue of the journal Circulation.

While no U.S. national transplantation rules disqualify people with diabetes from receiving a heart transplant, each transplantation center has its own rules, and some of those centers exclude people with diabetes, the study authors noted.

Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among diabetics.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about heart transplant.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 6, 2006
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