Heavy smokers can be successful lung donor candidates
January 29th, 2013
02:03 PM ET

Heavy smokers can be successful lung donor candidates

You might think that heavy smokers make for bad lung donors. But a new a study finds donors who smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 20 years were strong candidates for double lung transplant donors.

The study was presented this week at the annual Society of Thoracic Surgeons meeting.

Authors of the study evaluated 5,900 adult double lung transplants between 2005 and 2011 in the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) database. UNOS is the nation’s organ transplant management system. Heavy smokers made up 13%, or 766 of the double lung transplants studied.

Researchers found that the patients who received the smokers' lungs had similar short and medium term survival rates as those who received lungs from people who did not smoke heavily.

Patients who received heavy smokers' lungs tended to stay in the hospital for a few days longer for recovery. However, over a two-year span, researchers found that lung function and death rates in recipients who had received heavy smoking donor lungs was similar to those who received healthier lungs.

As the number of people in need for double lung transplants has grown, doctors have had to expand the donor pool. According to Dr. Sharven Taghavi, lead author of the study and a surgical resident at Temple University, “Historically, these donors were excluded. They were generally considered to be less than ideal.”

As Taghavi explained, "Some patients are in a very dire situation. They may not have the time to wait, so they have to use the lungs that are available.”

Currently, there are more than 1,600 people waiting for lung transplants, most of them waiting for a year to two years for a set of lungs.

Dr. Marie Budev is director of the Cleveland Clinic’s lung and heart transplant program, one of the largest in the country. Budev, who didn’t participate in the study, said she wasn’t surprised by the outcome. “In practice, we’re trying to balance two things -– survival of our patients, and preserving a donor pool.”

Because of the link between smoking and lung cancer, donor lungs must be carefully inspected, said Taghavi and Dr. Yoshida Toyoda, a co-author of the study. "We recommend a CT scan for evidence of tumors and emphysema, in addition to routine assessment including blood gas, bronchoscopy, and visual inspection," Toyoda said.

While the results look promising, Tagahvi did say that additional follow-up is needed to see if there is any difference in long-term outcomes.

In addition, he emphasized the importance of informing the patient and family of the circumstances surrounding the lungs. As Toyoda explained, “We need to discuss with potential recipients the possible higher risk of developing lung cancer, and obtain an informed consent specific of heavy smoking history.”

“It comes to us asking and informing our patients, with critical data, and saying this is what we know, and what it may mean to you… your risk of malignancy may not be greater. But your risk of rejection won’t be more. And your lung function will be maintained over time," said Budev.

As Budev pointed out, the 13% of people in the study who received lungs from heavy smokers in study may not have received any lungs otherwise.

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. ser

    puff puff...hack hack...

    January 30, 2013 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Boo

    Sorry...I don't buy this one bit.

    January 30, 2013 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. petricboro

    Strange,i never expect that heavy smokers can be a good candidate and great help for lung cancer victim.Thanks for sharing that stuff,Ummm....Do you want to learn how to super-charge every cell in your body in only minutes a day? Watch this video with experts Peter Ragnar and Tristan Truscott! ttp://www.longevitystrategist.com/qi-gong/

    January 31, 2013 at 05:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Donnell Jeansonne

    I recently read of a UK family who are taking legal action because their minor daughter was given the lung of a smoker, and she developed lung cancer.

    January 31, 2013 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Elle

    I admit that if I was dying and needed lungs, I wouldn't really care if the person smoked or not. But I'm not buying that the survival rates are the same, as they only state short and medium survival statistics. Long term, I would expect major differences. What a dilemna for both surgeon and patient, both.

    February 2, 2013 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. hacked games

    It’s really a great and helpful piece of info. I am glad that you simply shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

    March 11, 2013 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. mike

    Makes sense to me...My doctor told me if I quit smoking it would take about 2 years for my lung health to be back to a state of normal. If you catch COPD early enough it is reversable in time.

    April 26, 2013 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. 移動電源

    With havin a lot content material do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has lots of totally distinctive content I've either written myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it's popping it up all more than the net with out my agreement. Do you know any techniques to help protect against content from being ripped off? I would truly value it. 移動電源 http://www.powerbanktech.com

    June 21, 2013 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mike

    I've never smoked but have always had a curiosity about it. I just can never understand how people can do that to themselves, even if otherwise intelligent. But, I'll say, if I were given the lungs of a smoker, I would probably just give up and start smoking myself since, after all, my lungs had already been smoking anyway. I'd at least do it for awhile until my curiosity was quenched.

    July 9, 2013 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Zachariah Meighen

    a single hundred% SECURED Web web page(NO SURVEY) (VIRUS Free)- > >Watch the Huge Bang Idea Time 4 Episode twenty The Herb Backyard Germination Megavideo On-line

    July 22, 2013 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. headphones beats

    Excellent items from you, man. I have keep in mind your stuff prior to and you're just too wonderful. I actually like what you've acquired here, really like what you are saying and the way in which through which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to stay it sensible. I can not wait to read far more from you. This is actually a terrific website.
    headphones beats http://www.religionandnature.com/beats/headphones-beats.html

    March 13, 2014 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lenard Wodarski

    bankruptcy forms


    September 17, 2016 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Nicolas Stieber

    This is the awesome wonderful search system in the planet


    April 17, 2017 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. jordan brand price increase for holiday 2012

    air jordan 1 high bulls detailed look at 2013 editionair jordan 1 retro high wolf grey bestlebron james laces unreleased soldier 10 academy penew balance 574 picnic pack
    jordan brand price increase for holiday 2012 http://www.dedicatedturfandlandscaping.com/online-retailers/jordan-brand-price-increase-for-holiday-2012

    November 19, 2018 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. dial erotique

    bien à fond, son ventre frappait contre mes fesses. Je hurlais, mais il


    May 12, 2019 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. golf boys oh oh oh

    I wanted to start my own blog and I was looking for your suggestions for which sites you think are the best to start one with. . I want to be able to post pictures, text, and music (maybe).. I only want to use a free blog host..


    July 1, 2019 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.