Donor lung assessment using selective pulmonary vein gases†

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Standard donor lung assessment relies on imaging, challenge gases and subjective interpretation of bronchoscopic findings, palpation and visual assessment. Central gases may not accurately represent true quality of the lungs. We report our experience using selective pulmonary vein gases to corroborate the subjective judgement.


Starting, January 2012, donor lungs have been assessed by intraoperative bronchoscopy, palpation and visual judgement of lung collapse upon temporary disconnection from ventilator, central gases from the aorta and selective pulmonary vein gases. Partial pressure of oxygen (pO2) <300 mmHg on FiO2 of 1.0 was considered low. The results of the chest X-ray and last pO2 in the intensive care unit were also collected. Post-transplant primary graft dysfunction and survival were monitored.


To date, 259 consecutive brain-dead donors have been assessed and 157 transplants performed. Last pO2 in the intensive care unit was poorly correlated with intraoperative central pO2 (Spearman's rank correlation rs = 0.29). Right inferior pulmonary vein pO2 was associated (Mann–Whitney, P < 0.001) with findings at bronchoscopy [clean: median pO2 443 mmHg (25th–75th percentile range 349–512) and purulent: 264 mmHg (178–408)]; palpation [good: 463 mmHg (401–517) and poor: 264 mmHg (158–434)] and visual assessment of lung collapse [good lung collapse: 429 mmHg (320–501) and poor lung collapse: 205 mmHg (118–348)]. Left inferior pulmonary pO2 was associated (P < 0.001) with findings at bronchoscopy [clean: 419 mmHg (371–504) and purulent: 254 mmHg (206–367)]; palpation [good: 444 mmHg (400–517) and poor 282 mmHg (211–419)] and visual assessment of lung collapse [good: 420 mmHg (349–496) and poor: 246 mmHg (129–330)]. At 72 h, pulmonary graft dysfunction 2 was in 21/157 (13%) and pulmonary graft dysfunction 3 in 17/157 (11%). Ninety-day and 1-year mortalities were 6/157 (4%) and 13/157 (8%), respectively.


Selective pulmonary vein gases provide corroborative objective support to the findings at bronchoscopy, palpation and visual assessment. Central gases do not always reflect true function of the lungs, having high false-positive rate towards the individual lower lobe gas exchange. Objective measures of donor lung function may optimize donor surgeon assessment, allowing for low pulmonary graft dysfunction rates and low 90-day and 1-year mortality.

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