High-emergency waiting list for lung transplantation: early results of a nation-based study

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2014 Sep;46(3):e41-7; discussion e47. doi: 10.1093/ejcts/ezu259. Epub 2014 Jul 3.


Objectives: The high mortality rate observed on the regular waiting list (RWL) before lung transplantation (LTx) prompted the French organ transplantation authorities to set up in 2007 a dedicated graft allocation strategy, the so-called 'high-emergency waiting list' (HEWL), for patients with an abrupt worsening of their respiratory function. This study reports on the early results of this new allocation system.

Methods: Among 11 active French LTx programmes, 7 were able to provide full outcome data by 31 December 2011. The medical records of 101 patients who were listed on the HEWL from July 2007 to December 2011 were reviewed for an intention-to-treat analysis.

Results: Ninety-five patients received LTx within a median waiting time on the HEWL of 4 days (range 1-26), and 6 died before transplantation. Conditions were cystic fibrosis (65.2%), pulmonary fibrosis (24.8%), emphysema (5%) and miscellaneous (5%). The median age of the recipient was 30 years (range 16-66). Patients listed on the HEWL came from the RWL in 48.5% of the cases and were new patients in 51.5%. Forty-nine were placed under invasive ventilation and, in 26 cases, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) prior to transplantation was necessary as a complementary treatment. ECMO for non-intubated patients was performed in 6 cases. Eighty-one bilateral and 14 single LTx were performed, with an overall in-hospital mortality rate of 29.4%. One- and 3-year survival rates were 67.5 and 59%, respectively. Multivariate analysis shows that the use of ECMO prior to transplantation was the sole independent mortality risk factor (hazard ratio = 2.77 [95% CI 1.26-6.11]).

Conclusions: The new allocation system aimed at lowering mortality on the RWL, but also offered an access to LTx for new patients with end-stage respiratory failure. The HEWL increased the likelihood of mortality after LTx, but permitted acceptable mid-term survival rates. The high mortality associated with the use of ECMO should be interpreted cautiously.

Keywords: High emergency; Lung transplantation; Respiratory support.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Emergencies
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / mortality
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Transplantation / mortality
  • Lung Transplantation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists*
  • Young Adult