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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


eISSN: 2329-0358

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Support for Rituximab-Induced Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in an ABO-Incompatible Living Donor Liver Transplant Recipient: Successful Management of a Rare Complication and a Review of the Literature

Ping-Chun Li, Ashok Thorat, Shih-Chao Hsu, Kin-Shing Poon, Horng-Ren Yang, Te-Hung Chen, Chun-Chieh Yeh, Long-Bin Jeng

Organ Transplantation Center, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan

Ann Transplant 2017; 22:463-467

DOI: 10.12659/AOT.903788

Available online:

Published: 2017-07-28


BACKGROUND: Rituximab is commonly used to reduce the agglutinin titer in ABO-incompatible liver transplant recipients. Although well-tolerated, rituximab infusion therapy may result in severe pulmonary adverse effects such as drug-induced pneumonitis, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which has a high mortality rate. Management of such rare cases in an ABO-incompatible patient has never been described before. Herein, we present successful use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support for rituximab-induced ARDS in an ABO-incompatible living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) recipient.
CASE REPORT: A 57-year-old man patient presented with acute-on-chronic hepatic failure. Due to worsening clinical condition and unavailability of a deceased donor organ, ABO-incompatible LDLT was considered. The patient received rituximab therapy and plasmapheresis 1 week before the transplantation to reduce the B cell count. However, he suddenly developed acute respiratory distress-like symptoms, with a chest X-ray suggesting organized pneumonia. Infectious etiology was excluded as evidenced from negative sputum and blood culture, which were repeated after 48 h. LDLT was performed and ECMO support was instituted in the immediate postoperative period due to worsening of the ARDS. The pulmonary signs improved, with a chest X-ray showing clear lung fields on the 5th postoperative day. The patient recovered well and was discharged with normal liver functions in the 4th postoperative month.
CONCLUSIONS: This is first reported experience of successful use of ECMO in an ABO-incompatible liver transplant recipient with rituximab-induced ARDS. This experience shows the feasibility and effectiveness of ECMO support in liver transplant recipients with poor respiratory functions.

Keywords: Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, Living Donors, Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult