Diagnostic bronchoscopy in hematology and oncology patients with acute respiratory failure: Prospective multicenter data*

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To describe the diagnostic yields of test strategies with and without fiberoptic bronchoscopy and bronchoalveolar lavage (FO-BAL), as well as outcomes, in cancer patients with acute respiratory failure (ARF).


Prospective observational study.


Fifteen intensive care units in France.


In all, 148 cancer patients, including 45 bone marrow transplant recipients (27 allogeneic, 18 autologous) with hypoxemic ARF.




Overall, 146 causes of ARF were identified in 128 patients (97 [66.4%] pulmonary infections). The cause of ARF was identified in 50.5% of the 101 patients who underwent FO-BAL and in 66.7% of the other patients. FO-BAL was the only conclusive test in 34 (33.7%) of the 101 investigated patients. Respiratory status deterioration after FO-BAL occurred in 22 of 45 (48.9%) nonintubated patients, including 16 (35.5%) patients who required ventilatory support. Hospital mortality was 55.4% (82 deaths) overall and was not significantly different in the groups with and without FO-BAL. By multivariate analysis, mortality was affected by characteristics of the malignancy (remission, allogeneic bone marrow transplantation), cause of ARF (ARF during neutropenia recovery, cause not identified), and need for life-sustaining treatments (mechanical ventilation and vasopressors).


In critically ill cancer patients with ARF, a diagnostic strategy that does not include FO-BAL may be as effective as FO-BAL without exposing the patients to respiratory status deterioration.

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