Lung rejection and bronchial hyperresponsiveness to methacholine and ultrasonically nebulized distilled water in heart-lung transplantation patients

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1989 Jul;140(1):52-7. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/140.1.52.


Acute denervation of the lungs occurs after heart-lung transplantation (HLT), affecting both afferent and efferent nerves below the tracheal anastomosis. After surgery, the carina and main bronchi are perfused by mediastinal collaterals derived from the coronary arteries, and the intrapulmonary airways by retrograde blood flow from pulmonary artery collaterals. During acute rejection, the lungs are subjected to inflammation, particularly perivascular lymphocytic infiltrates. Rejection can be diagnosed by transbronchial biopsy (TBB). We report the bronchial responses to inhaled methacholine and ultrasonically nebulized distilled water (USNDW) in 16 HLT patients 2 wk to 43 months after surgery, relating them to the lung histopathology from concurrent TBB. Methacholine bronchial hyperresponsiveness was common, but it was not associated with airway epithelial or submucosal inflammation or perivascular lymphocytic infiltration. Six patients had a modest response to USNDW (fall in FEV1 greater than 10%). The responsiveness to USNDW was not associated with enhanced methacholine responsiveness or epithelial and mucosal inflammation. However, it was more commonly seen in patients with lung rejection and perivascular infiltrates. Methacholine hyperresponsiveness in HLT patients could therefore reflect denervation hypersensitivity of airway smooth muscle muscarinic receptors. The modest response to USNDW in some patients cannot be a result of a vagal reflex but could reflect a pathologic vascular response associated with lung rejection. These observations offer insight into the possible mechanisms of bronchial hyperresponsiveness in disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Biopsy
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Bronchial Spasm / diagnosis*
  • Denervation
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection*
  • Heart Transplantation*
  • Heart-Lung Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Lung / innervation
  • Lung Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Methacholine Compounds
  • Pulmonary Circulation
  • Water


  • Aerosols
  • Methacholine Compounds
  • Water
  • Methacholine Chloride