Pleural complications in lung transplant recipients

M. S. Herridge, A. L. de Hoyos, C. Chaparro, T. L. Winton, S. Kesten, J. R. Maurer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Pleural complications occurred in 30 (22%) of 138 patients after 53 single and 91 double lung transplants between September 1986 and February 1993. These were defined for the purposes of this study as pneumothorax persisting beyond the first 14 postoperative days, recurrent pneumothorax, or any other pleural process that necessitated diagnostic or therapeutic intervention. Overall, a higher pleural complication rate was seen in double lung transplantation (25 of 30) than in single lung transplantation (5 of 30) with no differences noted in the frequency among preoperative diagnostic group (p<0.05). Pneumothorax was the most frequent complication, affecting 14 of 30 patients, with 6 of 14 cases occurring after transbronchial biopsy. All pneumothoraces in single (n=4) and double lung transplantation (n=10) resolved spontaneously or with chest tube thoracostomy. One patient required placement of a Clagett window after open lung biopsy and another required thoracotomy and pleural abrasion after transbronchial biopsy. Parapneumonic effusion was observed in 4 of 30 double lung transplantations with spontaneous resolution in all cases. Empyema affected 7 of 30 patients and occurred exclusively in the double lung transplant group. Sepsis developed in three of the patients with this complication and they subsequently died. The risk of empyema was independent of preoperative diagnosis (p>0.05). Of interest, all patients with cystic fibrosis (n=3) with complicating empyema had Pseudomonas cepacia in the pleural fluid. Other miscellaneous complications included subpleural hematoma, chylothorax, and hemothorax. The latter two necessitated thoracic duct and bronchial artery ligation, respectively. In summary, a significant proportion of lung transplant recipients will have pleural space complications. The vast majority of these will resolve spontaneously or with conservative procedures. These complications were not related to preoperative diagnosis nor associated with a significant prolongation of hospital stay (p>0.05). Empyema is the only pleural space complication associated with increased patient mortality and, as such, is an important clinical marker for those at risk for sepsis and death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-26
Number of pages5
JournalThe Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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