Factors contributing to mortality in lung transplant recipients: an autopsy study.
Despite improved surgical techniques and advances in immunosuppressive therapy, posttransplant mortality rates remain significantly high in lung transplant patients. Since 1985, 3 of 6 single lung recipients, 3 of 3 double lung recipients, and 4 of 7 heart-lung recipients have died and undergone autopsy. We reviewed the autopsy findings in these patients to determine the type and frequency of pathologic processes associated with mortality. One or more infectious processes was found in every patient at autopsy. Gram-negative bacterial pneumonia and sepsis, found in 7 and 8 of 10 autopsy cases, respectively, were by far the most frequent contributing factors to mortality. Epstein-Barr virus infection was demonstrated in one patient using polymerase chain reaction amplification. Acute transplant rejection was found in only 2 patients and therefore is a much less common factor in the death of lung transplant recipients. Diffuse alveolar damage occurred in 6 patients and bronchiolitis obliterans occurred in 3 patients. These latter two processes may have different etiologies in different patients.