Background: Experience with lung transplantation in infants and young children is limited. Small size, vulnerability to infection, and limited modalities for rehabilitation and surveillance of the transplanted lung make this group particularly challenging.
Methods: We reviewed the course of all children up to the age of 25 months who underwent lung transplantation at two centers between July 1990 and February 1995.
Results: Lung transplantation was performed in 17 patients under the age of 25 months, with concurrent cardiac repair in 14. Prior thoracic surgery had been performed in 12; six patients had mechanical ventilation, and three were supported with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation while waiting for lungs. The mean waiting time was 37 days (range 1 to 197 days). Hospital survival was 12 of 17 (71%); there was one late death. Early deaths were due to hemorrhage (two patients), cytomegalovirus and lymphoproliferative disease (one patients), and viral pneumonitis (two patients). The one late death was due to overwhelming gastroenteritis of unknown origin. One additional patient had graft failure caused by viral pneumonitis and underwent successful retransplantation. Bronchial stenosis occurred at 3 of 33 anastomoses. At a mean follow-up of 22 months, surviving patients were well, without supplemental oxygen, and, although small in stature, had normal linear growth.
Conclusions: Lung transplantation is a reasonable therapy for very young patients with limited life expectancy and no other therapeutic alternative, with outcomes comparable with those achieved in older patients. Early recognition of lung transplant candidates and advances in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of viral illness may improve survival in these patients.