Cytoimmunological monitoring and quantitative birefringence measurements were used as potential aids in diagnosing acute rejection after heart transplantation instead of histopathological assessment of the endomyocardial biopsy specimen alone. Cytoimmunological monitoring was based on morphological inspection and quantitation of mononuclear cells, particularly activated lymphoid cells. Quantitative birefringence measurements comprise a variable for myocyte contractile function. Its read out is the ratio of the degree of birefringence before contraction to that after. Cytoimmunological monitoring indicated significantly higher concentrations of activated lymphocytes in moderate or severe acute rejection, and quantitative birefringence measurements indicated decreased myocyte function during severe and resolved or resolving rejection. Cytoimmunological monitoring and quantitative birefringence measurements were diagnostically most useful in terms of sensitivity, specificity, and predictive value, when only data gathered before the first episode of acute rejection were considered. For cytoimmunological monitoring, diagnostic relevance was optimal when the data were expressed as relative proportions of activated lymphocytes. The quantitative birefringence measurements correlated best with analysis of the endomyocardial biopsy specimen when a cut off value of 1.25 was used. When both methods for diagnosing acute rejection were analysed together, no improvement in sensitivity (value 0.44) was found, but the specificity increased to 0.98 and the predictive value to about 0.80. It is concluded that cytoimmunological monitoring is a useful, non-invasive additional method for diagnosing the first period of acute rejection after heart transplantation and that quantitative birefringence measurements give valuable information on the extent of myocyte damage.
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