Heart, Lung and Circulation

Impact of Late Referral on Cardiac Transplant Outcomes

Published:August 16, 2022DOI:


      Late referral for heart transplantation (HTx) is associated with worse patient outcomes. There are no universally accepted definitions of what constitutes a timely referral for HTx assessment.


      To evaluate the impact of late referral (LR) on HTx outcomes.


      This single-centre retrospective observational study included 80 patients undergoing HTx between 2016–2019. We applied a simple clinical tool, derived from markers of advanced heart failure (HF), to classify LR in HTx patients and assess the impact of LR on HTx outcomes. Outcome measures included duration of intensive care unit (ICU) stay, total hospitalisation stay, cost of transplant admission and one-year mortality.


      Based upon the clinical profile, LR was defined by the presence of four or more out of 10 criteria for more than 6 months in HTx patients. In this model, 34 patients were timely referrals and 46 were LR. Patients who were LR had: a longer median time between initial diagnosis and referral (3 vs 7 ys; p=0.03); more features of advanced HF, including inotrope requirements (p=0.004); more comorbidities (p=0.014); and hospitalisations (p<0.0001). Late referral was not associated with longer ICU (p=0.14) or hospital stay (p=0.051), however LR incurred greater total in-hospital costs (p=0.011). There was no difference in one-year mortality (6% vs 9%; p=0.64).


      Patients referred late for HTx are more unwell at time of referral and require greater in-hospital resource usage at the time of transplantation. Earlier referral for transplant assessment in patients with advanced HF should be encouraged.


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