Pulmonary hemorrhage as a cause of death in allogeneic bone marrow recipients with severe acute graft-versus-host disease

Transplantation. 1994 Jan;57(1):88-92. doi: 10.1097/00007890-199401000-00016.


Acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) has recently been associated with endothelial cell injury. The potential clinical significance was explored here in an autopsy review. Thirty-seven allogeneic bone marrow recipients were identified in the autopsy files at The Johns Hopkins Hospital with no evidence of systemic infection. Forty-one percent (15/37) of these patients were found to have extensive recent pulmonary hemorrhage at autopsy which was thought to have led to terminal respiratory failure and death. The 37 patients were divided into 2 groups: those with significant acute GVHD (stage 2 or greater) and those without GVHD (stage 0 or 1). Fifty-nine percent (10/17) of the patients with significant acute GVHD died of acute respiratory failure due to recent pulmonary hemorrhage as opposed to 25% (5/20) of those without acute GVHD (P = 0.032, Fisher's exact test). Terminal pulmonary hemorrhage was also associated with preparation for BMT, with 67% (12/18) of those prepared with total body irradiation (TBI) having pulmonary hemorrhage as opposed to 15% (3/19) of those prepared with chemotherapy using Busulphan (P = 0.002). There was no significant difference in posttransplant survival, engraftment, or final platelet count between the patients stratified by GVHD or preparative protocol. The data support a strong association between significant acute GVHD and terminal hemorrhage, as well a possible association between TBI and pulmonary hemorrhage. Analysis of variance demonstrates that GVHD and TBI are independently associated with increased pulmonary hemorrhage (P < 0.01 for GVHD, P < 0.001 for TBI). We propose that GVHD contributes to terminal pulmonary hemorrhage by injuring the endothelium. However, this association could also be a secondary effect, i.e., toxicity from therapy for GVHD, or an abnormality in cytokines or growth factors. The pathogenic relationship between significant GVHD and terminal hemorrhage is discussed briefly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autopsy
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation / immunology*
  • Graft vs Host Disease / complications*
  • Graft vs Host Disease / mortality
  • Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Factors