Diabetes no barrier to heart transplants: study

Diabetics without other health problems survive heart transplants about as well as nondiabetics, according to a new U.S. study, which suggests diabetes shouldn't disqualify patients from a transplant waiting list.

Diabetics without other health problems survive heart transplants about as well as nondiabetics, according to a new U.S. study, which suggests diabetes shouldn't disqualify patients from a transplant waiting list.

In the study, published online Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers analyzed United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) records for survival rates of more than 20,000 people who had heart transplants between 1995 and 2005. That included 3,687 people who were diabetic.

The researchers found that nondiabetics had a median survival rate of 10.1 years, while diabetics had a survival rate of 9.3 years, a difference the study authors said was not statistically significant.

Demand for transplants will grow

More than 21 million North Americans suffer from diabetes, mostly Type 2, which is linked to obesity. The disease, which significantly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, is often associated with other cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, cholesterol problems and insulin resistance.

More people are developing heart failure, said one of the study authors, Dr. Mark Russo, a researcher at Columbia University. A transplant is often the only solution for heart failure, when the weakened heart gradually loses its pumping power.

Russo said the study confirms doctors' intuitive beliefs. While showing that many diabetics do well with a heart transplant, the research also showed that median survival for those with one complicating condition of diabetes fell to less than seven years and for those with two complications, transplant survival was less than four years.

"Prior to this it was unclear whether diabetes mattered and what it meant if they had complications related to their diabetes," Russo said.