Background: The relationship between pre-transplant body weight and post-transplant outcome has only recently been identified using a single, indirect measure of weight (percent ideal body weight [PIBW]). The literature is equivocal regarding which index is the better indicator of body weight. The purpose of this study was to determine (1) if pre-heart transplant body weight, measured by body mass index (BMI) and PIBW, is associated with post-heart transplant morbidity and mortality and (2) if patient gender, age, and etiology of heart disease affect this association.MethodsThe sample included 4,515 patients who received a heart transplant from January 1, 1990-December 31, 1995 at 38 institutions participating in the Cardiac Transplant Research Database (CTRD). Patients were divided into groups according to their BMI and PIBW. Data were described using frequencies, measures of central tendency, Pearson correlation coefficients, stratified actuarial analyses and log rank tests for comparisons, and a multivariable risk factor analysis in the hazard domain.ResultsFor all patients (n = 4,515), being <80% or >140% of IBW before heart transplant was a risk factor for increased mortality after heart transplant. The association between pre-heart transplant PIBW and post-heart transplant survival was affected by gender, age, and etiology of heart disease. In males, a higher PIBW was a significant risk factor for death early after transplant (p = .0003). Although not significant, there was a trend for a higher PIBW being a risk factor for death in females throughout the post transplant period (p = .07). No differences in cause of death were found for PIBW and BMI. In male and female recipients <55 years, being overweight pre-heart transplant was a risk factor for infection. In patients with pre-transplant ischemic heart disease, the greatest risk for infection was found in patients who were >140% of IBW. Pre-heart transplant BMI and PIBW were not associated with acute rejection or cardiac allograft arteriopathy after transplant.ConclusionsIn conclusion, being cachectic or obese preoperatively is associated with decreased survival in all patients after heart transplantation. Being obese preoperatively is associated with increased infection after heart transplant in males and females <55 years and in patients with ischemic heart disease. Of the 2 indices of body weight used in this study, percent ideal body weight appears to be the better predictor of future morbidity and mortality following heart transplantation. Copyright (C) 1999 International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.