Central nervous system complications after lung transplantation

J Heart Lung Transplant. 1998 Feb;17(2):185-91.


Purpose: This study describes the central nervous system (CNS) events after lung transplantation.

Methods: A chart review of all lung transplant recipients (LTR) to collect the clinical and neuroimaging data for CNS events defined as seizures, severe headaches, confusion, or stroke.

Results: Twenty-six patients of 100 LTRs from 1990 through 1995 had a CNS event; more than one event occurred in 5 patients for a total of 32 events. Severe headache was most common, occurring in 14 patients, followed by seizures in 10, stroke in 5, and confusion in 3. The CNS event was related to infection in three of the 26 patients. Of all evaluations performed, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) identified the most abnormalities, the most common being white matter changes consistent with cyclosporine toxicity. Cyclosporine levels were elevated in slightly more than half of the patients. Hypomagnesemia was present in three of 10 patients with seizures. Prognosis for recovery from these complications was good, with only five patients having ongoing problems with headaches, one requiring long term anticonvulsant therapy, three having minor or no limitations from stroke and no long-term problems with confusion. One patient with seizures resulting from an aspergilloma died.

Conclusion: CNS events occur commonly in LTRs, mostly related to cyclosporine toxicity or infection. MRI identifies more abnormalities than computed tomography. These events were not consistently associated with documented high cyclosporine levels and hypomagnesemia. In spite of significantly abnormal MRIs, the functional outcome is favorable.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / etiology
  • Confusion / diagnosis
  • Confusion / etiology
  • Cyclosporine / adverse effects
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Headache / diagnosis
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Incidence
  • Lung Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclosporine