Prospective study of the value of transbronchial lung biopsy after lung transplantation.
Transbronchial lung biopsy (TBB) has become the gold standard for the diagnosis of acute rejection and cytomegalovirus (CMV) pneumonia in lung transplant recipients. The aim of this study was to assess the value of regular surveillance TBB in stable asymptomatic patients and to establish the role of TBB as a follow-up procedure 1 month after a previous pathological biopsy result. We prospectively evaluated 76 TBBs performed in 17 lung transplant recipients. A definite pathological results was found in 14 of 15 TBBs performed for clinical indications: CMV pneumonia (5), acute rejection grade > or = A2 according to the criteria of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) (4), bronchiolitis obliterans (3), and desquamative interstitial pneumonitis (2). Fifteen of 45 surveillance TBBs performed in asymptomatic patients revealed significant abnormalities. Ten episodes of acute rejection ISHLT grade > or = A2 and three episodes of CMV pneumonia detected by TBB had direct therapeutic consequences. Nine of 16 follow-up TBBs performed 1 month after a pathological biopsy result again showed relevant pathological findings. With the exception of one severe haemorrhage, no life-threatening complications occurred. Our results suggest that transbronchial lung biopsies performed on a regular basis after lung transplantation are important for the detection of asymptomatic and/or persistent acute rejection or injection. In the long-term, this strategy might be the most effective tool in reducing the incidence of bronchiolitis obliterans, which is still the main obstacle for further improvement of long-term survival after lung transplantation.