Background. Early detection and treatment of acute rejection in cardiac transplant recipients significantly improves long-term survival. Endomyocardial biopsy is used routinely for diagnosing allograft rejection; however, in young children, this procedure carries some risk. We evaluated serum vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as a potential surveillance marker of acute cellular rejection. Methods. Blood samples (n=62) were analyzed from 23 patients and compared with controls (n=18) using an ELISA for VEGF. Results were correlated with endomyocardial biopsy rejection grades. Results. Mean baseline VEGF levels of the transplant population were consistently higher than controls. Serum VEGF levels were significantly higher during acute cellular rejection when compared with the nonrejecting transplant group (700.7±154 pg/ml vs. 190.5±29 pg/ml). VEGF decreased two- to eightfold after immunosuppressive therapy in 9 of 11 rejection episodes. Conclusions. These data suggest that VEGF may play a role in the pathogenesis of acute allograft rejection and it may serve as a reliable serologic surveillance marker.
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