BACKGROUND--Although pulmonary infiltrates are common in bone marrow transplant recipients and add significantly to the morbidity and mortality of this group of patients, there is uncertainty as to the most appropriate investigation and a lack of information on the effects of investigations on management and outcome. METHODS--All bone marrow transplant recipients from one institution referred for respiratory investigation between 1982 and 1990 were reviewed. RESULTS--Of 204 bone marrow transplant recipients 27 developed pulmonary infiltrates which failed to respond to broad spectrum antibiotics. All were examined by bronchoscopy and bronchoalveolar lavage. A specific diagnosis was made in 20 cases, 17 with an infective cause and three with a non-infective aetiology. In 17 of the 27 episodes these investigations led to a positive change in treatment, but in only five did these changes result in patient survival beyond one month. Eighteen of the 20 deaths were due to progressive respiratory failure of an infective aetiology in 14 and non-infective in four. CONCLUSIONS--Bronchoscopy and bronchoalveolar lavage are effective in establishing a diagnosis, but the impact on overall survival is disappointingly poor.
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