As the frequency of lung transplants rises, so too has the strain on resources to manage in-hospital complications after those operations. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have identified independent predictors of short-term complications that can compromise long-term survival in these patients in what they said is the first study to systematically evaluate and profile such complications.

“These results may identify important targets for best practice guidelines and quality-of-care measures after lung transplantation,” reported Dr. Ernest G. Chan and colleagues ( J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2016 April;151:1171-80 ).

The study involved 748 patients in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Transplant Patient Management System database who had in-hospital complications after single- or double-lung transplant from January 2007 to October 2013. The researchers analyzed 3,381 such complications in 92.78% of these patients, grading the complications via the extended Accordion Severity Grading System (ASGS). The median follow-up of the cohort was 5.4 years.

The researchers also classified complications that carried significant decrease in 5-year survival into three categories: renal complications, with a hazard ratio (HR) of 2.58; hepatic, with an HR of 4.08; and cardiac, with an HR of 1.95.

“Multivariate analysis identified a weighted ASGS sum of greater than 10 and renal, cardiac, and vascular complications as predictors of decreased long-term survival,” Dr. Chan and colleagues noted.

In-hospital complications are important predictors of long-term survival, Dr. Chan and coauthors wrote, citing studies from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the University of Minnesota. ( N Engl J Med. 2001;345:181-8 ; Ann Surg. 2011;254:368-74 ). They also noted variable findings of several studies with regard to the impact center volume can have on long-term survival, particularly because high-volume centers may be better prepared to manage those complications.

“These important finding highlight the need for further in-depth analysis into an intriguing aspect of surgical management of complications after high-risk procedures,” the researchers wrote. Their goal was to create a postoperative complication profile for lung transplant patients.

Of the 748 patients in the study, 7.22% (54) had an uneventful postoperative course. The noncomplication group had a cumulative 5-year survival of around 73.8% vs. 53.3% for the complications group. On average, each patient in the complication group had almost five different complications. The most common were pulmonary in nature (71.66%), followed by infections (69.52%), pleural space–related problems (46.12%), renal complications (36.23%), and cardiac (35.83%). Renal complications accounted for the greatest decrease in 5-year survival at 35.4% vs. 64.4% in patients who did not have renal complications.

Survival rates for other categories of complications vs. the absence of those complications were: hepatic, 18.1% vs. 57.3%; cardiac, 39.5% vs. 62.3%; vascular, 29.4% vs. 58.5%; neurologic, 32.6% vs. 57.1%; musculoskeletal, 27.4% vs. 56.8%; and pleural-space complications, 48.7% vs. 60.3%.

The multivariate analysis assigned hazard ratios to these predictors: age older than 65 years, 1.01; renal events, 1.70; cardiac events, 1.29; vascular events, 1.33; and weighted ASGS sum, 1.08. Besides ASGS severity, the researchers considered Charlson Comorbidity Index analysis, but found that it had no significant effect on hazard ratio, the researchers said.

“With appropriate patients selection and contemporary surgical techniques, vigilant postoperative management and avoidance of adverse events may potentially offer patients better long-term outcomes,” Dr. Chan and colleagues noted. “The overall 90-day postoperative course has an influence on long-term survival.”

Among those factors that influence survival are the severity of the intervention to treat the complication and the occurrence of less-severe complications, they added. “The next step is to identify interventions that effectively reduce the incidence, as well as severity, of in-hospital, postoperative complications.”

The researchers had no financial relationships to disclose.