Should lung transplantation be performed for patients on mechanical respiratory support? The US experience

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2010 Mar;139(3):765-773.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2009.09.031.


Objective: The study objectives were to (1) compare survival after lung transplantation in patients requiring pretransplant mechanical ventilation or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation with that of patients not requiring mechanical support and (2) identify risk factors for mortality.

Methods: Data were obtained from the United Network for Organ Sharing for lung transplantation from October 1987 to January 2008. A total of 15,934 primary transplants were performed: 586 in patients on mechanical ventilation and 51 in patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Differences between nonsupport patients and those on mechanical ventilation or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support were expressed as 2 propensity scores for use in comparing risk-adjusted survival.

Results: Unadjusted survival at 1, 6, 12, and 24 months was 83%, 67%, 62%, and 57% for mechanical ventilation, respectively; 72%, 53%, 50%, and 45% for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, respectively; and 93%, 85%, 79%, and 70% for unsupported patients, respectively (P < .0001). Recipients on mechanical ventilation were younger, had lower forced vital capacity, and had diagnoses other than emphysema. Recipients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation were also younger, had higher body mass index, and had diagnoses other than cystic fibrosis/bronchiectasis. Once these variables, transplant year, and propensity for mechanical support were accounted for, survival remained worse after lung transplantation for patients on mechanical ventilation and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

Conclusion: Although survival after lung transplantation is markedly worse when preoperative mechanical support is necessary, it is not dismal. Thus, additional risk factors for mortality should be considered when selecting patients for lung transplantation to maximize survival. Reduced survival for this high-risk population raises the important issue of balancing maximal individual patient survival against benefit to the maximum number of patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Transplantation / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • United States
  • Young Adult