Donor Lungs from Heavy Smokers Deemed Safe for Transplantation

Cigarettes from Heavy SmokerAlthough heavy smokers, individuals who have smoked an equivalent of one pack a day for 20 years, have previously been deemed ineligible for lung donation, a new study recently published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery suggests that transplanting lungs from heavy smokers does not affect patient outcomes after surgery.

Researchers led by Dr. Anton Sabashnikov of the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital in the United Kingdom analyzed data from 237 patients who underwent lung transplantation at Harefield Hospital between 2007 and 2012. The researchers split the patients into three groups:

  1. Patients with lungs transplanted from smoking donors (less than 20 pack years)
  2. Patients with lungs transplanted from heavy-smoking donors (more than 20 pack years)
  3. Patients with lungs transplanted from non-smoking donors

The researchers excluded patients who received lungs from donors with unknown smoking statuses. All the patients had comparable characteristics at the beginning of the study.

However, the researchers do note that heavy-smoking donors were much older than non-smoking and smoking donors.

According to the study, patients who received lungs from smoking donors and heavy-smoking donors did not experience any severe negative outcomes following surgery when compared with patients who received lungs from non-smoking donors.

Dr. Sabashnikov believes that the findings of the present study could help address the current shortage of lungs available for transplant. Comments Dr. Sabashnikov:

“Based on our results, history and extent of donor smoking do not significantly affect early and mid-term patient outcomes following lung transplantation.

“While this does not eliminate the need for long-term follow-up, donor lungs from heavy smokers should be considered for patients needing lung transplantation as they may provide a valuable avenue for expanding donor organ availability.”

Dr. Pierre-Emmanuel Falcoz of University Hospital in France in an accompanying editorial, “The findings shed light on the possibility of reducing waiting-list mortality by maximization of donor selection. The number of available organs for a given patient will increase.”


Donor lungs from heavy smokers ‘safe for transplantation’:
Influence of donor smoking on midterm outcomes after lung transplantation:

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