Bronchoscopy with transbronchial biopsy (TBBx) and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) has an appreciable yield in detecting asymptomatic abnormalities in heart-lung transplant recipients (HLTR) during the early postoperative period. The utility of annual surveillance procedures has not been critically evaluated. We reviewed all annual bronchoscopies performed on 29 HLTR to determine the frequency of asymptomatic abnormalities. Surveillance bronchoscopies (SB) were performed on asymptomatic subjects with unchanged lung function compared with baseline. Surveillance/ clinical bronchoscopies (SCB) were those performed in patients with stable decrements in lung function. Nineteen patients underwent 48 SB and 8 had 18 SCB. Five of 15 (33%) SB performed at one year yielded an abnormal TBBx (1 grade 2 acute rejection [AR], 1 grade 1 AR, 1 grade 1 AR with obliterative bronchiolitis [OB] and 2 Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). At 2 or more years, TBBx was abnormal in 2 of 33 (6%, p=0.024 compared with first year TBBx) (1 grade 1 AR, 1 lymphocytic bronchiolitis). Pathogens were identified in BAL in 19 (40%) SB. Fourteen (78%) SCB were abnormal. Nine (50%) revealed an abnormal TBBx (all OB), but only 2 (11%) of these altered patient management. Seven (39%) demonstrated pathogens in BAL. We conclude that in HLTR (1) surveillance TBBx rarely yields positive findings 2 or more years posttransplant, (2) surveillance TBBx seldom alters management in patients with stable decrements in lung function, and (3) BAL is useful to screen for potential pathogens.
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