Stanford experience with obliterative bronchiolitis after lung and heart-lung transplantation

Hermann Reichenspurner, Reda E. Girgis, Robert C. Robbins, Kwok L. Yun, Michael Nitschke, Gerald J. Berry, Randall E. Morris, James Theodore, Bruce A. Reitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Background. Obliterative bronchiolitis (OB) is the main chronic complication after heart-lung (HLTx) and lung transplantation (LTx), limiting the long-term success of both transplant procedures. Methods. Since 1981, 135 HLTxs and 61 isolated LTxs were performed in 184 patients at Stanford University. Results. The overall prevalence of OB in patients surviving longer than 3 months postoperatively was 64% after HLTx and 68% after LTx. The actuarial freedom from OB was 72%, 51%, 44%, and 29% at 1, 2, 3, and 5 years, respectively, after HLTx and LTx. An analysis of potential risk factors revealed that the frequency and severity of acute rejection episodes (p < 0.001) and the appearance of lymphocytic bronchiolitis on biopsy (p < 0.05) were significantly associated with the development of OB. With regard to diagnosis of OB, pulmonary function tests show early reductions of the forced expiratory flow between 25% and 75% of the forced vital capacity with subsequent decreases in the forced expiratory volume in 1 second. The sensitivity of transbronchial biopsies has increased to 71% since 1993. Current treatment consists of augmented immunosuppression. Concurrent acute rejection episodes or active OB on biopsy have been treated aggressively with high-dose steroid pulses. Analysis of data from 73 patients with OB after HLTx and LTx revealed actuarial 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year survival of 89%, 71%, 44%, and 17% versus 86%, 77%, 63% and 56% in patients without OB (p < 0.05 by log-rank analysis). The main complication and cause of death in patients with OB was superimposed respiratory tract infection, which was treated aggressively. Conclusions. Early diagnosis of OB using pulmonary function tests or transbronchial biopsy is possible and important, because immediate treatment initiation has led to acceptable survival rates, with nearly 50% of affected patients still alive 5 years after transplantation. Current experimental research on OB suggests that immune injury is the main pathogenetic event of airway obliteration in animal models; rapamycin and leflunomide are new immunosuppressive agents that may have the potential to prevent and treat airway obliteration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1467-1473
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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