Background: Obliterative bronchiolitis is a progressive form of obstructive airway disease that threatens long-term survival in lung transplant recipients. Its incidence and the long-term survival of lung transplant recipients with obliterative bronchiolitis are unknown.
Methods: The results of 89 heart-lung and 13 bilateral sequential lung transplant survivors beyond 90 days of their operation were analyzed. The date of diagnosis for obliterative bronchiolitis was established histologically (presence of submucosal fibrosis) or physiologically by a persistent reduction in the forced vital capacity to less than 0.7 for greater than 6 weeks. There were 43 patients without obliterative bronchiolitis and 59 patients with obliterative bronchiolitis.
Results: No differences were found in the mean age and gender ratios between the two groups. The actuarial 1-, 5-, and 10-year percentage freedom from obliterative bronchiolitis was 72 +/- 4.6, 30 +/- 5.6, and 15 +/- 7.4, respectively, with a median onset of 689 days (range 55 to 3404 days). About half the patients with biopsy-proven obliterative bronchiolitis had a fall in their forced expiratory flow at 50% of forced vital capacity/forced vital capacity nearly 4 months before fulfilling the forced expiratory volume in 1 second criteria established by the Working Group on chronic lung dysfunction. The actuarial 1-, 5-, and 10-year percentage survival of obliterative bronchiolitis negative patients was 90 +/- 4.5, 74 +/- 8.4, and 66 +/- 10.6, respectively, versus 90 +/- 3.9, 49 +/- 6.9, and 27 +/- 10.0, respectively, for obliterative bronchiolitis positive patients (p = 0.38). The actuarial 1-, 3-, 5-, 8-, and 10-year percentage survival of lung transplant recipients after the diagnosis of obliterative bronchiolitis was 74 +/- 5.8, 50 +/- 7.5, 43 +/- 7.8, 23 +/- 8.7, and 11 +/- 9.1, respectively, with a median survival of 1084 days (range 0 to 3442 days).
Conclusions: The forced expiratory flow at 50% of forced vital capacity/forced vital capacity is a more sensitive indicator for the early detection of obliterative bronchiolitis than the forced expiratory volume in 1 second after heart-lung or bilateral sequential lung transplantation. The obliterative bronchiolitis negative group survival tends to be better than the obliterative bronchiolitis positive group. The obliterative bronchiolitis positive lung transplant recipients have reasonable outcomes with a median survival time of nearly 3 years after the diagnosis of obliterative bronchiolitis. Earlier detection of obliterative bronchiolitis and refinements in management may further improve these results.