Airway stenoses after lung transplantation: Incidence, management, and outcome

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Airway stenoses have been a significant cause of morbidity and mortality after lung transplantation. We reviewed our 11-year experience with dilatation and silicone stent treatment of airway strictures after lung transplantation. We adopted this approach after managing the complications of nitinol/wire mesh stents, including stent fracture, granulation tissue overgrowth, and difficulty with removal.


Between January of 1996 and December of 2007, 240 patients underwent lung transplantation (132 single lung, 108 double lung; 121 male, 119 female; mean age 49.4 ± 12.9 years). Twenty patients (8.3%) developed >50% stenosis in 22 airways over 35 to 135 days following surgery. Short and long-segment strictures were managed with rigid bronchoscopy, mechanical/laser debridement, balloon dilatation, and silicone stent placement. Mean follow-up was 4.9 ± 3.5 years after stent removal.


The mean time to diagnosis of airway stenosis was 81.5 ± 26.9 days. Pulmonary aspergillosis and pseudomonal infection, age less than 45 years, and early rejection correlated with airway stenosis; however, ischemic time, side of transplant, and preoperative disease did not. Airway patency and symptom improvement were achieved in 18 of 20 patients. Sixteen patients were able to have their stents removed at a mean of 362.3 ± 126.4 days with permanent resolution of airway stenosis. Overall survival was similar for patients with and without airway stenosis.


Airway stenosis after lung transplantation can be successfully managed with bronchoscopic dilatation and temporary silicone stent placement. With time, most short and long airway stenoses resolve with atraumatic stenting of the affected areas. Removal of stents with permanent airway patency is achievable in most lung transplant recipients with airway stenosis.

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