-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
TUESDAY, Jan. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Lungs of heavy smokers can
be donated safely for use in adult double-lung transplants, a new
Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia found that
lungs from carefully selected donors who smoked at least a pack a
day for more than 20 years may be used in certain transplant
situations without affecting recipients' survival rates or deaths
from lung cancer.
The study authors said the use of lungs donated by heavy smokers
could help more patients get the life-saving double-lung transplant
"Our findings demonstrate that the current criteria for lung transplantation can potentially be revised to include donors with a heavy smoking history," Dr. Sharven Taghavi, from Temple University Hospital, said in a news release from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. "This may help decrease the shortage of donor lungs and decrease waiting list mortality."
"For example, a surgeon may choose to transplant lungs from a healthy donor who has good lung function despite heavy smoking, or lungs may be accepted from a less-than-ideal donor for a very sick patient," Taghavi said.
In conducting the study, the researchers examined data from the
United Network for Organ Sharing on 5,900 people who received a
double-lung transplant between 2005 and 2011. Of these patients, 13
percent received lungs donated by a heavy smoker.
The study found that patients who received carefully screened
lungs from donors who smoked had short- and medium-term survival
rates similar to those who got lungs from people who didn't smoke.
The researchers added that the lung function of the patients who
received lungs from heavy smokers was not worse and there was no
difference in deaths from cancer.
The study's authors noted, however, that lungs from heavy
smokers must be examined closely to ensure they are free of cancer
and other disease.
Dr. Yoshiya Toyoda, also from Temple, said the smoking history
of the patients providing the lungs might not always be
"Lungs from heavy smokers must be carefully evaluated," Toyoda said in the news release. "We recommend a CT scan for evidence of tumors and emphysema in addition to routine assessment including blood gas, bronchoscopy and visual inspection."
Toyoda also said potential recipients of lungs from heavy
smokers must be made aware of the possible higher risk of
developing lung cancer.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that
every year only 50 percent of people who need a double-lung
transplant will actually get one. Complicating matters, double-lung
transplants now outnumber single-lung transplants.
More than 1,600 people were on the Organ Procurement and
Transplantation Network waiting list for a lung transplant at the
end of 2012, the study authors said.
The study was to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of
the Society of Thoracic Surgeons in Los Angeles. Research presented
at medical meetings is considered preliminary because it hasn't
been subjected to the same scrutiny as studies published in
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on
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