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J Heart Lung Transplant. 2001 Dec;20(12):1305-9.

Prognostic value of serum carcinoembryonic antigen levels in patients who undergo lung transplantation.

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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.



Potential candidates for lung transplantation undergo a rigorous evaluation before transplant. Serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels are used as a screening tool for occult malignancy in many lung transplant centers. We reviewed the pre-transplant CEA levels in lung transplant recipients in our institution to determine their prognostic significance.


We performed a retrospective database review of the first 200 patients that had undergone lung or heart-lung transplant at our institution (dates were 1/20/92-7/25/98). Data extracted included CEA levels (in ng/ml) at the time of lung transplant evaluation, demographic data, and survival. Patients had one of the following diagnoses: alpha-1-anti-trypsin deficiency, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Eisenmenger's syndrome, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, primary pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis, or other.


After excluding re-transplants, CEA results were available for 174 of 193 (90.2%) patients. CEA levels were elevated in 85 patients (48.9%) with a mean value of 3.15 +/- 2.55 (normal < 2.5). Solid organ cancers developed in 6 patients, at a median follow-up of 27.5 months after transplant. Their mean pre-transplant CEA level was similar to the rest of the group (3.52 +/- 2.05). Pre-transplant CEA levels did not predict post-transplant survival. Patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis had the highest pre-transplant CEA levels, whereas patients with primary pulmonary hypertension and Eisenmenger's syndrome had the lowest (5.36 +/- 4.59, 0.83 +/- 0.56, and 1.43 +/- 0.81, respectively; p = 0.0001).


CEA levels are high in patients with end-stage lung disease, especially IPF. Their levels appear to be a marker of the underlying disease and do not predict the post-transplant survival or development of malignancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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