Background: A scoring system was recently proposed to grade the severity of primary graft dysfunction (PGD), a frequent early complication of lung transplantation. The purposes of this study are to: (1) validate the PGD grading system with respect to patient outcomes; and (2) compare the performance of criteria employing the arterial oxygenation to fraction of inspired oxygen (P/F) ratio to an alternative grading system employing the oxygenation index (OI). Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 402 patients having undergone lung transplantation at our institution from 1992 through 2004. The ISHLT PGD grading system was modified and grades were assigned up to 48 hours post-transplantation as follows: Grade 1 PGD, P/F >300; Grade 2, P/F 200 to 300; and Grade 3, P/F <200. A worst score T(0-48) was also assigned, which reflects the highest grade recorded between T0 and T48. Results: The prevalence of severe PGD (P/F Grade 3) declined after transplant, from 25% at T0 to 15% at T48. Grouping patients by P/F grade at T48 demonstrated the clearest differentiation of 90-day death rates (Grade 1, 7%; Grade 2, 12%; Grade 3, 33%) (p = 0.0001). T48 OI grade also differentiates 90-day death rates. There was no difference in longer-term survival between patients with PGD Grades 1 and 2. OI grade at T0 qualitatively improved differential mortality between Grades 1 and 2; however, the differences did not reach statistical significance. Patients with a worst score T(0-48) of Grade 3 PGD did have significantly decreased long-term survival, as well as longer ICU and hospital stay, when compared with Grades 1 and 2 PGD. Significant risk factors for short- and long-term mortality in our multivariate model were P/F Grade 3 [worst score T(0-48) as well as T0 grade], single-lung transplant, use of cardiopulmonary bypass and high pre-operative mean pulmonary artery pressure. Conclusions: There is an increased risk of short- and long-term mortality and length of hospital stay associated with severe (Grade 3) PGD. The proposed ISHLT grading system can rapidly identify patients with poor outcomes who may benefit from early, aggressive treatment. Refinement of the scoring system may further improve patient risk stratification.