Lung Transplants Received from Heavy Drinkers Linked to Higher Complication Risks

Drinking in Transplant DonorsIn a recent study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers suggest that lung transplant recipients who received lungs from donors who were heavy drinkers may be more likely to develop higher complication risks.

The study looked at 173 lung transplant patients. Of the 173 participants, 1/4 of them received lungs from heavy drinkers. Heavy drinking, according to the researchers, was defined as more than three drinks a day or seven drinks a week for women, and more than four drinks a day or 14 drinks a week for men.

When researchers compared patients who received lungs from nondrinkers, those who received lungs from heavy drinkers were nearly nine times more likely to develop a complication called severe primary graft dysfunction (PGD).

PGD is a syndrome of acute lung injury that generally occurs within the first 72 hours after lung transplantation, and may lead to an increased risk of rejection.

Dr. David Guidot, of Emory University School of Medicine, said the findings raise “the question as to whether or not a history of heavy alcohol use by a potential donor should exclude the use of their lungs in transplantation. At a time when there is a critical shortage of lungs available for transplantation, this is obviously a problematic issue,” he said.

Guidot added that if other studies confirm these findings, the lung transplant community would have to address this issue. Excluding donor lungs from heavy drinkers is one option. But he also suggested that it is possible that a drug might be developed to counteract the effects of alcohol abuse on the lungs.

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