We retrospectively reviewed the pulmonary complications and associated morbidity and mortality of 44 consecutive patients who underwent 52 orthotopic liver transplantations (OLTs) at the Mayo Clinic during 1987. All survivors participated in follow-up for 1 year after OLT. Of the five deaths in the study group, three were associated with pulmonary infections. On postoperative chest roentgenograms, 24 cases of pulmonary infiltrates were noted; 12 were caused by infections. Ten opportunistic pulmonary infections developed in nine patients: four cytomegalovirus, three Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and one each of Cryptococcus, Aspergillus, and Candida. All except one of the opportunistic infections were diagnosed after the sixth postoperative week. Fiberoptic bronchoscopy was helpful for diagnosing opportunistic pulmonary infections in six patients. One Aspergillus pulmonary infection was diagnosed by transthoracic needle aspiration. Bacterial pneumonia occurred in five patients. Preoperative pulmonary function tests, performed in 40 patients, revealed a restrictive ventilatory defect in 28% and impaired gas transfer in 52%. Pleural effusion was present in 18% of patients preoperatively and in 77% during the first week after OLT. Preoperative severity of liver disease and results of arterial blood gas determinations, pulmonary function tests, and chest roentgenography were not associated with postoperative mortality and pulmonary infections. Infectious and noninfectious pulmonary complications are common in liver transplant recipients. Attempts to decrease the frequency and severity of pulmonary complications by early diagnosis and effective treatment may diminish the morbidity and mortality associated with OLT.
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