Pulmonary complications in cardiac transplant recipients

Roberta Lenner, Maria L. Padilla, Alvin S. Teirstein, Alan Gass, Gregory J. Schilero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Background: The incidence of pulmonary complications in heart transplant recipients has not been extensively studied. We report pulmonary complications in 159 consecutive adult orthotopic heart transplantations (OHTs) performed in 157 patients. Materials and methods: Retrospective review of medical records. Results: Forty-seven of 159 recipients (29.9%) had 81 pulmonary complications. Pneumonia was the most common (n = 27), followed by bronchitis (n = 15), pleural effusion (n = 10), pneumothorax (n = 7), prolonged respiratory failure requiring tracheotomy (n = 7), and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (n = 6). All patients with late-onset (> 6 months after transplantation) community-acquired bacterial pneumonia presented with fever, cough, and a new lobar consolidation on the chest radiograph, and responded promptly to empiric antibiotics without undergoing an invasive diagnostic procedure. In contrast, early-onset nosocomial bacterial pneumonias carried a 33.3% mortality rate. A positive tuberculin skin test result was associated with a significantly higher rate of pulmonary complications (62.5% vs 26.8%, p = 0.007). Lung cancer and posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) developed exclusively in 6 of the 61 patients (8.1%) who received induction immunosuppression with murine monoclonal antibody (OKT3). Conclusion: Pulmonary complications are common following heart transplantation, occurring in 29.9% of recipients, and are attributed to pneumonia of primarily bacterial origin in one half of cases. Late-onset community-acquired pneumonia carried an excellent prognosis following empiric antibiotic therapy, suggesting that in the appropriate clinical setting invasive diagnostic procedures are unnecessary. Analogous to reports in other solid-organ transplant recipients, induction therapy with OKT3 was associated with an increased incidence of lung cancer and PTLD. Overall, the development of pulmonary complications after OHT has prognostic significance given the higher mortality in this subset of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-513
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Cardiac
  • Complications
  • Pulmonary
  • Transplantation


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