Human transplantation of a biologic airway substitute in conservative lung cancer surgery

Ann Thorac Surg. 2011 Mar;91(3):837-42. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2010.11.013.


Background: Pneumonectomies for lung cancer are associated with a high postoperative mortality, especially when right-sided, after neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy, and in patients over 70 years of age. Preliminary studies in our laboratory have shown that aortic grafts could be valuable airway substitutes. We report the first human bronchial transplantation of a cryopreserved aortic allograft used as a biologic airway substitute to prevent a pneumonectomy for lung cancer.

Methods: The procedure was performed in a high-risk 78-year old patient with an extensive right bronchopulmonary malignant tumor pretreated with chemotherapy. After a complete resection of the lung cancer using an upper bilobectomy with lymph node removal, mobilization procedures did not allow for a primary end-to-end bronchial anastomosis. A stent-supported cryopreserved aortic allograft from a certified tissue bank was interposed to restore the bronchial continuity with sparing of the lower lobe.

Results: The postoperative course was eventful for a supraventricular arrhythmia leading to mild pulmonary edema that resolved using standard medical therapy, and a right lower lobe atelectasis with bacterial colonization that required fiberoptic bronchoscopies in addition to antibiotic treatment. A 1-year postoperative evaluation found a well-functioning reimplanted lower lobe with no complications related to the cryopreserved aortic allograft or the stent. The patient recovered to his baseline activity with a satisfying health-related quality of life.

Conclusions: We demonstrate the feasibility of this surgical innovation to prevent the high-risk procedure of pneumonectomy in a single case. If confirmed in larger series of selected patients, it could bring new perspectives in conservative lung cancer surgery.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aorta / transplantation*
  • Bronchi / surgery*
  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible*
  • Cryopreservation
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Pneumonectomy / methods*
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Stents*
  • Tissue Transplantation / methods*


  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible