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Lung from a smoker is better than nothing

Updated: July 3, 2012 12:12PM

LONDON — Patients who need new lungs are better off getting organs donated by smokers than none at all, even though they probably won’t live as long as those who get a transplant from a nonsmoker, a new study says.

Researchers say patients will survive longer if they are willing to accept lungs from anyone, including smokers. In Britain, that’s a key issue because about 40 percent of donated lungs come from people who were smokers.

In recent years, several cases of British patients dying after getting lungs from smokers have sparked calls for the policy to be overhauled.

U.K. doctors involved in the new study said changing the transplant system would lead to a spike in the number of people dying while waiting for donated lungs.

Researchers found that patients who received lungs from smokers were about 46 percent more likely to die within three years compared with patients received the organs from nonsmokers. But they had a 21 percent lower chance of dying vs. people who were still on the waiting list.

In the United States, doctors also use lungs from smokers, although Dr. Norman Edelman, the chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, didn’t have any data on how often that happens. The U.S. and the U.K. have similar overall smoking rates: about 20 percent. AP

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