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The Major Autopsy Findings in Adult Patients after Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

Said Khayyata, Ayman O. Soubani, Michelle Bonnett, Hind Nassar, Muneer H. Abidi, Mousa A. Al-Abbadi

Ann Transplant 2007; 12(2): 11-18

ID: 514513

Background: Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is a curative treatment option for hematological malignancies, but this treatment can be associated with a mortality risk.
Material/Methods: A ten-year retrospective review of all autopsies was performed where those who underwent HSCT were studied. The major autopsy findings and the cause of death were characterized and compared between those seen in allogeneic and those in autologous HSCT recipients. The study period preceded the use of prophylactic antifungal agents.
Results: A total of 66 autopsies were identified; 52 (79%) received allogeneic and 14 (21%) autologous transplantation. Death occurred at a median of 85 days post transplantation (range 2–1825 days); 36 (55%) died within the first 100 days post stem cells infusion. The major complications for HSCT patients were pulmonary, including diffuse alveolar damage (DAD), acute pneumonia and invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. The most common cause of death in the allogeneic HSCT group was DAD (13/52; 25%), followed by invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (10/52; 19%), acute pneumonia (10/52; 19%) and massive gastrointestinal bleeding (6/52; 12%); in the autologous group causes were disease relapse/progression of the underlying malignancy (4/14; 29%), acute pneumonia (3/14; 21%) and DAD (2/14; 14%).
Conclusions: We conclude that the spectrum of disease entities, commonly diagnosed at autopsy in HSCT recipients may provide insight to clinicians for anticipating complications and consequently help in the management of these high risk patients. The increased infectious complications observed in the allogeneic transplant cases may be explained by immunosuppression and that the study period preceded the use of prophylactic antifungal agents. However, relapse/progression of the disease is the predominant cause of mortality after autologous transplant.

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