Study objectives: To establish whether a consensus exists among active transplant centers regarding the use and interpretation of information obtained by surveillance bronchoscopic lung biopsy (SBLB).
Design: Prospective standardized questionnaire answered via mail and telephone communications.
Participants: A five page, 18-question survey was sent to all lung transplant programs listed by the United Network of Organ Sharing in North America, as well as eight selected international programs. Ninety-one surveys were sent to 83 North American and eight international programs. Seventy-four programs (81%) responded. Seventeen programs (19%) were excluded secondary to inactivity. The remaining 57 programs (63%) were included in final data analysis.
Results: Sixty-eight percent (39/57) of the responding programs perform SBLBs. Ninety-two percent of the programs performing SBLBs do so within the first month, and 69% continue to do so on a regular basis. Sixty-nine percent (27/39) of programs performing SBLBs continue to do so after 1 year. Eighty-six percent (32/37) of respondents believe that SBLB impacts on patient management at least 10% of the time. Technically, 90% (35/39) take biopsy specimens from more than one lobe per SBLB session. Fifty-nine percent (23/39) took 6 to 10 biopsy specimens per session, 33% (13/39) took three to five biopsy specimens, and 7% (4/39) took >10 biopsy specimens per session. Eighty-six percent (32/37) of the responding centers reported treating asymptomatic rejection at grade 2A, while 14% (5/37) waited until histologic grade 3A before beginning treatment. Complications from SBLB were minimal with <5% rates of pneumothorax, requirement for chest tube placements, or significant bleeding during SBLB reported by >95% of the programs performing SBLB.
Conclusion: Most active lung transplant centers perform SBLBs and do so on a regular basis. However, a wide range of opinion exists over the utility and technique of SBLB and the impact of its results influencing outcome in the lung transplant recipient. To answer these questions, a randomized multicentered trial or registry to determine the effect of SBLB on lung transplant recipient morbidity and mortality is required.