The lungs of people who smoked heavily for many years can be used successfully in double lung transplants, a new study finds.
The trial of 5,900 adult double lung transplant patients found those who received lungs of heavy smokers—who smoked more than a pack a day for over 20 years—had similar short- and medium-term survival rates, compared with those who received lungs from people who were not heavy smokers.
People who received lungs from heavy smokers tended to stay in the hospital for a few days longer as they recovered, CNN reports. Over two years, their lung function and death rates were similar to those who received healthier lungs, the researchers reported at the annual Society of Thoracic Surgeons meeting.
More than 1,600 people are waiting for lung transplants. Most have a one- to two-year wait for a set of lungs, the article notes.
“Our findings demonstrate that the current criteria for lung transplantation can potentially be revised to include donors with a heavy smoking history. This may help decrease the shortage of donor lungs and decrease waiting list mortality,” lead researcher Dr. Sharven Taghavi of Temple University said in a news release.
Current transplantation guidelines advise against using lungs from heavy smokers. Dr. Taghavi said in some special situations, transplant surgeons may accept lungs from a heavy smoker. “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,” he said.