08/30/12 at 2:14 pm

Lauren Ditter

Between Two Lungs

Smoking causes a lot of changes to the human body.  Among other things it has an effect on the heart, lungs, bones, skin, memory, and pregnancies. While most people don’t think about the affects of their smoking on other people, some people don’t even think about what smoking does to their own bodies – especially when they begin young.

A study out of the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology revealed that adolescents who smoke “can induce structural changes to the arterial wall and possibly lead to the development of atherosclerosis before adulthood.”

Over the years, numerous studies have been completed covering the effects of smoking on youths, but this study out of Switzerland is the first of its kind to focus on the arterial walls. “Ultrasound analysis of the common carotid artery of adolescents who actively smoked showed that their intima-media was as much as 0.03 mm thicker than those of youth who didn’t smoke,” researchers found.

Featuring 279 subjects between the ages of 9 and 20, preliminary findings found that many were already at risk for cardiovascular disease into adulthood.

According to the American Lung Association, “every year in the U.S. over 392,000 people die from tobacco-caused disease, making it the leading cause of preventable death. Another 50,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke.” And yet more and more children are continuing to smoke despite the obvious health risks ahead of them.

MD Consult continued to circulate articles exhibiting the effects of smoking with a focus on lung transplants.

The Lancet recently published a study suggesting those who are in need of a lung transplant accept donors with a history of smoking. While the hazards of smoking are clear and can lead to a long list of illnesses, ranging from various cancers to dementia, they have found that when faced with waiting for a healthy pair of lungs from a donor or accepting those from one with a history of smoking, that the patient fared better in the long run from receiving the transplant.

The author of the study explained that, “our data show[s] that patients awaiting lung transplantation in the UK are likely to survive longer if they are willing to accept lungs from any suitable donor, irrespective of smoking history…donors with a positive smoking history provide nearly 40% of the lungs available for transplantation. Rejection of this donor-organ resource would increase waiting-list mortality and is ill-advised.”

The study was based off of 1,295 lung transplantations, 39% involving lungs from smokers.

It is not easy though to convince doctors and patients that this is a good idea. Patients who receive lung transplants from smokers have a higher mortality rate than those from non-smokers; however, their chance of survival over those who are on the wait-list for 100% healthy lungs improves by 21%.

Explaining the risks and benefits of receiving this type of transplant to the patient has to be a top priority. The authors believe that, “this study establishes that, although…donor smoking history adversely affects recipients’ survival, not to use such donors would increase overall mortality by compromising patients’ survival from waiting-list entry.”

Check back again next week when we see what else is new on MD Consult.

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