Objective: To analyze the incidence, treatment and follow up of airway complications after lung transplantation.
Methods: From October 1993 to April 2000, 104 lung transplants were performed in 101 patients. One hundred and fifty one bronchial anastomoses at risk were included in the study (29 single lung and 61 sequential double lung). Donor lungs were flushed both antegradely and retrogradely with Eurocollins. In the recipients, either a single or a sequential bilateral lung transplantation was performed when indicated. The bronchial anastomosis was telescoped and covered with peribronchial tissue in all cases. Postoperative fiberoptic bronchoscopic examinations were dictated by clinical grounds. Recipient variables were recorded and analyzed to assess possible differences between both complicated and non-complicated groups.
Results: Eight bronchial anastomotic complications (5.3%) occurred in six patients (6.8%). All complicated cases developed in sequential bilateral lung recipients (P=0.08): stenosis (n=5), granulation tissue (n=2), and bronchial dehiscence (n=1). Treatment consisted of lobectomy and subsequent completion pneumonectomy in one patient, rigid bronchoscopy dilation in two, balloon bronchodilation in two, laser debridement and stenting in one, and conservative therapy in two cases. One patient with severe sepsis and bronchial dehiscence died on day +30. The rest of the patients remain well so far. Airway complications were related to longer intubation periods (P<0.01). Other perioperative donor and recipient factors including the incidence of infections and acute rejection episodes, and actuarial survival, did not differ between groups.
Conclusion: In our experience, the incidence of airway complications after lung transplantation is 5.3%. The careful surgical technique and organ preservation, the close surveillance of rejection and infection, and early postoperative extubation might play a role in reducing this incidence. Either surgical therapy or bronchoscopic dilation and stenting methods may contribute to resolve these complications.