Double-lung transplants from older donors have a survival rate comparable to those received from younger donors, a new study claims.

With a shortage of thoracic organs, scientists now urge patients and doctors alike to highly consider the use of older lungs for younger patients.

Older Lungs vs Younger Lungs

Researchers from the University of Louisville reviewed data from the United Network for Organ Sharing database between January 2005 and June 2014. Of the 14,222 lung transplants received, only 2 percent of patients 18 years old and older received lungs from donors older than 60 years old and 4 percent of all transplants used older lungs.

Researchers found that the five-year survival rate for double-lung transplants from older donors (53 percent) did not differ much from younger donors (59 percent).

However, single-lung transplants from older lungs posed a higher mortality risk. Those who received single-lungs only had a 15 percent five-year survival rate from older donors 50 percent from younger donors.

"The availability of suitable donor lungs for transplantation continues to be a major obstacle to increasing the number of lung transplants performed annually," said lead author Dr. William Whited. "Research such as this that explores the means of expanding the donor pool is of critical importance."

Whited admitted that the lack of lung transplants is due to the low supply of suitable organs as many of the potential donors fail the criteria.

The study is published in Annals of Thoracic Surgery on Nov. 9.

Increasing The Donor Pool

As early as 2013, a study looked at the possibility of expanding the donor pool by encouraging the use of Centers for Disease Control high-risk donors in lung transplants.

According to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN), there are currently 1,400 patients on the wait list for lung donors. Many of them wait for at least four months. The unavailability of lung donors resulted to the death of more than 200 patients annually.

There is a need for all candidates to receive organ transplant. The OPTN recommended for a more thorough information drive about organ donation and transplantation. They noted that despite medical and technological advancement, there still remains a significant gap in the supply and demand.

In France, a new law passed made all of its citizens become automatic organ donors upon death. Those who want to opt-out have to sign up a refusal register.

Early this year, a teen from Utah died post-lung transplantation. Initially denied for a lung transplant due to presence of marijuana in his blood stream, the teen eventually had the surgery and succumbed to the complications.

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