Background: The presence of a systemic disease has traditionally been considered a contraindication to lung transplantation.
Methods: We present a retrospective review of 19 patients undergoing lung transplantation for end-stage pulmonary disease associated with a systemic illness since 1984. There were 11 male and 8 female patients, aged from 23 to 59 years (median 43 years) with end-stage pulmonary involvement by sarcoidosis (11 patients), Langerhan's cell histiocytosis (three patients), systemic vasculitis (four patients: three with systemic lupus erythrematosis, one with Churg-Strauss), and common variable immunodeficiency (one patient). Ten patients received a heart-lung transplant, and eight patients received a single lung transplant. One patient underwent single lung transplantation after an earlier heart-lung transplant.
Results: The 30-day mortality was 5.3%. Nine patients died overall. Two of these had systemic lupus erythrematosis with anticardiolipin antibodies and died from complications of their underlying vasculitis. The mean 1- and 2-year actuarial survivals for all patients were 71% (standard error +/- 10.8%) and 64% (standard error +/- 11.9%), respectively. All patients surviving longer than 3 months achieved an improvement in functional status to New York Heart Association class I or II, and a significant increase occurred in mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second and forced vital capacity. Disease recurrence without clinical significance occurred in two patients with sarcoidosis. Of the nine patients who died, seven had autopsies and none showed evidence of disease recurrence in the lungs.
Conclusions: Patients with systemic diseases can be considered for lung transplantation and each case should be judged on its individual merits. However, patients with systemic lupus erythrematosis (particularly when associated with anticardiolipin antibodies) should probably not be offered lung transplantation because they are likely to develop further complications of their underlying vasculitis.