Lung transplantation and survival in children with cystic fibrosis: solid statistics--flawed interpretation

Pediatr Transplant. 2008 Mar;12(2):129-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3046.2008.00924.x.


In their provocative paper, "Lung transplantation and survival in children with cystic fibrosis," Liou and colleagues state that "Prolongation of life by means of lung transplantation should not be expected in children with cystic fibrosis. A prospective, randomized trial is needed to clarify whether and when patients derive a survival and quality of life benefit from lung transplantation." Unfortunately, that conclusion is not supportable. Liou's dataset introduced bias against transplantation by using covariates obtained well before the time of transplant (when predicted survival was good) and having a cohort with lower than expected post-transplant survival than reported elsewhere. The calculated hazard ratios are based on factors that may have changed between listing and transplant, and do not reflect true benefit on a patient by patient basis. The findings of the study are contrary to other studies using similar methods. Finally, recent changes in US lung transplant allocation policy may have made the study findings moot. In contrast to Liou's suggestion to perform an ethically and logistically challenging randomized trial to verify the benefit of lung transplantation, a research agenda is recommended for pediatric lung transplantation for cystic fibrosis that focuses on developing strategies to continually reassess and maximize quality of life and survival benefit.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / surgery*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Humans
  • Lung Transplantation*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Survival Analysis
  • Waiting Lists