BACKGROUND: Accelerated allograft atherosclerosis is the main cause of death of cardiac transplant recipients after the first year after transplantation. Because no medical therapy is known to prevent or retard graft atherosclerosis and transplantation is associated with a shortened allograft survival, alternative, palliative therapy with percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) has been attempted. Because no single medical center has performed angioplasty in a large number of cardiac transplant recipients, representatives of 11 medical centers retrospectively analyzed their complete experience of coronary angioplasty in cardiac transplant patients to determine the safety, efficacy, limitations, and long-term outcome of angioplasty in allograft coronary vascular disease. METHODS AND RESULTS: Thirty-five patients underwent 51 angioplasty procedures for 95 lesions 46 +/- 5 months (mean +/- SEM) after transplantation. The primary indications for angioplasty included angiographic coronary disease in 22 cases (43%) and noninvasive evidence of ischemia in 18 procedures (35%). Angiographic success, defined as less than or equal to 50% post-PTCA stenosis, occurred in 88 of 95 lesions (93%). Mean pre-PTCA stenosis was 83 +/- 1.1%; mean post-PTCA stenosis was 29 +/- 2.1% (p less than 0.0001). Periprocedural complications included myocardial infarction and late in-hospital death in one patient and three groin hematomas. Twenty-three of the 35 patients (66%) had no major adverse outcome such as death, retransplantation, or myocardial infarction at 13 +/- 3 months after angioplasty. Four patients died less than 6 months after angioplasty, and four died more than 6 months after angioplasty (range, 6-23 months). Two patients had retransplantation 2 months after PTCA, and one patients had retransplantation 18 months after angioplasty. CONCLUSIONS: Coronary angioplasty may be applied in selected cardiac transplant recipients with comparable success and complication rates to routine angioplasty. Whether angioplasty prolongs allografts survival remains to be determined by a prospective, controlled trial.