Background: Lung transplantation has been available as therapy for end-stage lung disease since the early 1980s, but survival after transplantation remains poor, with continued controversy as to the survival benefit from the procedure. We examined the effect of lung or heart-lung transplantation on the survival of a cohort of children with cystic fibrosis and severe lung disease.
Methods: Between May, 1988, and May, 1998, 124 children with cystic fibrosis were accepted for lung transplantation. 47 received transplants, 68 died while they awaited organs, and nine remained on the active waiting list. We constructed a proportional-hazards model that used variables of prognostic significance in this population. By including transplant status as a time-dependent covariate, we were able to calculate a hazard ratio for transplantation. Date of entry into the study was the date when children were added to the list for transplantation, and measurements were taken at this time. Children were accepted for transplantation if they had a life expectancy of 2 years or less, a poor quality of life, and no contraindications to transplantation.
Findings: After 1 year, 35 (74%) children were still alive; after 5 years 12 (33%) children were alive. The univariate hazard ratio for transplantation was 0.41 (95% CI 0.23-0.74; p=0.003). Transplantation remained significantly associated with survival after correction for differences in age, sex, height-corrected forced expiratory volume in 1 s, minimum oxygen saturation during a 12 min walk, haemoglobin concentration, albumin concentration, and age-corrected resting heart rate (hazard ratio 0.31 [0.13-0.72]; p=0.007).
Interpretation: If centres follow our criteria for accepting patients for transplantation, and achieve similar survival after transplantation, they could expect a survival benefit for their patients in line with our results.