BACKGROUND: The risk that a positive smoking history in lung donors could adversely affect survival of transplant recipients causes concern. Conversely, reduction of the donor pool by exclusion of donors with positive smoking histories could compromise survival of patients waiting to receive a transplant. We examined the consequences of donor smoking on post-transplantation survival, and the potential effect of not transplanting lungs from such donors.
METHODS: We analysed the effect of donor smoking on 3 year survival after first adult lung transplantation from brain-dead donors done between July 1, 1999, and Dec 31, 2010, by Cox regression modelling of data from the UK Transplant Registry. We estimated the effect of acceptance of lungs from donors with positive smoking histories on survival and compared it with the effect of remaining on the waiting list for a potential transplant from a donor with a negative smoking history donor, by analysing all waiting-list registrations during the same period with a risk-adjusted sequentially stratified Cox regression model.
FINDINGS: Of 1295 lung transplantations, 510 (39%) used lungs from donors with positive smoking histories. Recipients of such lungs had worse 3 year survival after transplantation than did those who received lungs from donors with negative smoking histories (unadjusted hazard ratio [HR] 1·46, 95% CI 1·20-1·78; adjusted HR 1·36, 1·11-1·67). Independent factors affecting survival were recipient's age, donor-recipient cytomegalovirus matching, donor-recipient height difference, donor's sex, and total ischaemic time. Of 2181 patients registered on the waiting list, 802 (37%) died or were removed from the list without receiving a transplant. Patients receiving lungs from donors with positive smoking histories had a lower unadjusted hazard of death after registration than did those who remained on the waiting list (0·79, 95% CI 0·70-0·91). Patients with septic or fibrotic lung disease registered in 1999-2003 had risk-adjusted hazards of 0·60 (95% CI 0·42-0·87) and 0·39 (0·28-0·55), respectively.
INTERPRETATION: In the UK, an organ selection policy that uses lungs from donors with positive smoking histories improves overall survival of patients registered for lung transplantation, and should be continued. Although lungs from such donors are associated with worse outcomes, the individual probability of survival is greater if they are accepted than if they are declined and the patient chooses to wait for a potential transplant from a donor with a negative smoking history. This situation should be fully explained to and discussed with patients who are accepted for lung transplantation.