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In My Opinion

New Source of Transplantable Lungs?

Published March 3, 2014 9:31 AM by Jimmy Thacker

Researchers in the U. K. have presented findings that lung transplants, even from heavy smokers, can be beneficial to those in need. A "heavy" smoker is someone who has more than a 20 pack-year history of smoking. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery report that the study used 237 participants between 2007 and 2012, and concluded that though the lungs of heavy smokers were older, there were no apparent differences in the acceptance by the body or benefits when compared to those of non-smokers. 

I think this is big news. For years, the exclusion to lung donation was that if you were a heavy smoker, your lungs were no good. This research suggests otherwise. On the other end, if you are needing a new set of lungs, more opportunity may have just opened up because the exclusion appears to be unnecessary. Further study is needed, but it is exciting to think that more patients will spend less time on the waiting list for a new set of lungs and a new lease on life. According to Dr. Anton Sabashnikov, one of the researchers involved with the study, "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."

In my opinion, we should continue to explore this. Lives are depending on it, and respiratory therapists need to stay updated on the subject and answer questions potential lung transplant patients may have about the safety and viability of lungs that have been subjected to heavy smoking. It is exciting to think that more lives can be improved and even saved based on this research. The U.S. must follow up with our own studies now, and see if we reach the same conclusions.

That's just my opinion,
Jim Thacker, MBA, MHA, CRT, AE-C
Windsor, Mo.

3 comments

I've heard that lung transplants are usually good for only 5yrs.  That maybe only for CF patients though, I don't know for sure.  Of course for the expense of the surgery, hospital stay & anti-rejection meds etc... the best senario is to use the best lung you can come by but I realize they are not always available when you need one.  As technology advances though, a COPD lung might just give someone the extra time they need to receive that newest break-thru device, surgical implant, technique etc.. to give them a long and then healthy life.

John April 6, 2014 2:39 AM

A good thing since not many actually gets new lungsm this will

widen the donor pool.

However how about the risk of developing

lung cancer? Smokers lungs and immunesupression........

Hilmi March 8, 2014 9:30 PM
Kuala Lumpur

I agree, it would be far better to get a lung than not get a lung. Many people die waiting for lung transplants, for example people with A1A. For some of those people, even having chronic smokers lungs would be a vast improvement over what they are used to and give them possibly years, or buy time until a matching "clean" lung can be available. Glad to see the medical community starting to see the lungs of smokers as a viable alternative.

Mark Austin, RCP March 7, 2014 2:59 PM

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