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Transplant Proc. 2004 Nov;36(9):2808-11.

Incidence of primary neoplasms in explanted lungs: long-term follow-up from 214 lung transplant patients.

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Department of Anatomy and Pathology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.



Undetected neoplasms in explanted lungs at transplantation are an unusual occurrence that may significantly complicate both the short- and long-term outcome of these patients. The incidence and survival of undetected primary neoplasms in explanted lungs with clinical and radiologic correlation have not been studied in a large cohort of patients.


We reviewed the files of 214 consecutive lung transplants from the Transplant Center at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation from 1991 to 2000. Data collected included age, gender, pathology of explanted lung, and survival. Retrospective review of all imaging studies was performed in those cases where a primary neoplasm was detected after transplant.


One hundred thirteen males and 101 females underwent lung transplantation for the following diagnoses: emphysema, 118; cystic fibrosis, 35; primary pulmonary hypertension, 27; usual interstitial pneumonia, 26; lymphangioleiomyomatosis, 4; sarcoidosis, 2; and pneumoconiosis, 2. Four neoplasms were found in the explanted lungs, representing a 2% incidence. All four neoplasms were bronchogenic carcinomas, including three adenocarcinomas and one squamous cell carcinoma. Three of four neoplasms were found in the setting of emphysema and were detected at an early stage (stage I), and the fourth presented as stage IV in the setting of usual interstitial fibrosis. No recurrence of tumor was seen in the stage I cases. The stage IV case died in the perioperative period. Retrospective review of the imaging studies showed that, in all four cases, a portable chest radiograph performed immediately before transplant failed to identify the lesions. A chest computerized tomogram was performed in all four cases from 3 to 27 months prior to transplantation and revealed a suspicious lesion in one of the four.


Undetected neoplasms in explanted lungs at transplantation are uncommon, with an incidence of 2% at our institution. Adenocarcinoma was the most common cell type. In long-term survivors, no recurrences were found. The 3-year survival was 50% and this approaches the 3-year survival of transplant recipients without lung tumors (58.8%) at our institution. Chest radiographs appear to have a very low sensitivity for the detection of small lesions suspicious for a neoplasm. Chest computerized tomograms performed immediately prior to transplantation may be of benefit in detecting these neoplasms.

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