Background Despite the overall negative impact of chronic rejection on quality of life and survival after lung transplant, the specific clinical indicators of deterioration have not been identified.
Objectives To describe the course of illness after the onset of chronic rejection, including demographic and transplant variables, morbidity, mortality, health resource utilization, and end-of-life care, and to identify clinical indicators of deterioration in health and limited survival after the onset of chronic rejection.
Methods The medical records of 311 recipients of lung transplants between 1998 and 2004 were reviewed retrospectively to identify 60 recipients who experienced chronic rejection.
Results Median survival after chronic rejection was 31.34 months. Time to rejection (mean, 26.05 months; SD, 16.85) was significantly correlated with overall survival without need of a retransplant (r = 0.64; P < .001). The earlier the onset of chronic rejection or the need for oxygen at home, the shorter was the period of survival after chronic rejection and the more frequent were hospital and intensive care unit admissions and prolonged stays. Of the 26 recipients who died, 65% died at the transplant center, and all but 1 died in the intensive care unit; 3 died after multiple attempts of cardiopulmonary resuscitation; life support was ultimately withdrawn in 69%.
Conclusions Lung transplant recipients who experience chronic graft rejection have high rates of morbidity, mortality, and health resource utilization; however, the course of illness after chronic rejection is highly variable.