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Use of Smokers' Lungs for Transplant Has Pros, Cons
Date:5/29/2012

TUESDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Should the lungs of smokers be included in lung transplants? A new study suggests their inclusion may be warranted.

The study found that lung transplant patients who receive smokers' lungs still are more likely to survive than those who refuse such lungs and remain on the transplant waiting list.

The lives of patients who receive smokers' lungs, however, tended to be shorter than those who receive the lungs of non-smokers, the British researchers added. Given the evidence, however, Britain's policy of using smokers' lungs for transplant should be continued, according to the authors of the study published online May 28 in The Lancet.

The issue is not just a British one -- speaking to the Associated Press, Dr. Normam Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, said smokers' lungs are also used for transplant in the United States, although he did not have data on how common the practice might be.

But the bottom line from the new study is that "patients awaiting lung transplantation in the U.K. are likely to survive longer if they are willing to accept lungs from any suitable donor, irrespective of smoking history," lead author Dr. Robert Bonser, of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and the University of Birmingham, said in a journal news release. "Donors with a positive smoking history provide nearly 40 percent of the lungs available for transplantation [in the U.K.] Rejection of this donor-organ resource would increase waiting-list mortality and is ill-advised."

Bonser and his colleagues examined the survival rates for nearly 2,200 adult patients in the United Kingdom awaiting lung transplants between 1999 and 2010. Of the nearly 1,300 lung transplants that took place during that time, about two in every five came from donors with a history of smoking.

Patients who received smokers' lungs were 46 percent more likely to have
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