UK & World News

  • 9 February 2014, 13:54

Lungs Of Donors Who Smoke 'Can Save Lives'

The smoker status of lung donors has no impact on the survival rates of patients who receive their organs, according to a study.

Researchers at London's Harefield Hospital's transplant specialist centre examined 237 lung transplants between 2007 and 2012 and found no difference in the one to three year survival rates of those who received a transplant from a smoker.

Demand for donated lungs far outstrips supply and given that roughly half the population are either current or former smokers, their donations cannot be turned away.

In the hospital's study, 47% of transplanted lungs had come from smokers.

Of those 18% came from people who had smoked 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years or more.

After a year the survival rate for patients with smokers' lungs was almost 91%.

For those with non-smokers' lungs, the survival rate was lower at almost 78% but after three years the survival rates evened out.

The research's author, Dr Andre Simon, told Sky News: "While you shouldn't smoke, you can donate lungs when you are a smoker and actually it is safe to transplant them too.

"There is a misconception and if I did not know the facts I would be there too, I would say: 'Oh Jeez, smokers' lungs? Can't be good!'  But that's not the case."

Vanessa Bradle, 41, is recovering well from a lung transplant she had last year. 

Like most patients, Vanessa does not know the identity or the smoker status of her donor.

"One of the things I was concerned about was a smoker's lung but the fact that the surgeon was looking at the lung to make sure it was a healthy lung reassured me and I was in desperate need of a transplant so I was prepared to take a healthy lung."

Ms Bradle could have opted not to receive a lung donated by a smoker but would have had to wait longer for her transplant.

The shortage is so severe that for every two survivors, one patient will die while waiting for a suitable organ.

This research should offer some reassurance that smokers' lungs can save lives.

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