Study looks at the link between lung transplant and cardiac arrhythmia

In the largest study of its kind, researchers have investigated the occurrence of cardiac arrhythmia in lung transplant patients with a focus on identifying risk factors to improve patient outcomes.

Published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, the study highlights cardiac arrhythmia as a common complication post lung transplantation and one that has a significant negative impact on long-term patient survival.

The team of researchers from the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine (UPMC) examined the medical records of 652 UPMC patients who underwent a single or double lung transplant between 2008 and 2013.

The results identified that approximately 30% of lung transplant recipients developed cardiac arrhythmia, usually in the first week after transplantation, and that previous heart surgery and age were both linked to an increased risk.

Additionally, the study noted that patients who developed an arrhythmia were 1.6 times more likely to die within 5 years of surgery than those who did not.

Jonathan D'Cunha, MD, PhD, associate professor, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery,
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and chief of Lung Transplantation, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, UPMC, noted that a key finding was that blood thinners may only need to be prescribed for a short amount of time and that this may have a positive impact on long-term outcomes.

D’Cunha also noted that, alongside more effective treatment, the findings will allow physicians to better prepare patients pre operation so that they, and their families have a clearer idea of what to expect after their transplantation.

"Most importantly, based on the results of this study, we can now predict, with a reasonable degree of certainty, when arrhythmia will happen," Dr. D'Cunha said. "This allows us to begin to standardise our treatment approach and improve patient care in the postoperative setting."