Why heart transplant patients resume smoking revealed in University of Pittsburgh study

PITTSBURGH, April 11 Nearly half of ex-smokers who receive heart transplants resume smoking at some point after their life-saving operation, and now researchers have good evidence to suggest who is at risk of relapse. Results of a University of Pittsburgh study presented at the 22nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation outline for the first time the strongest predictors for smoking relapse in heart transplant patients.

Leading the list: a short abstinence period before transplantation, bouts of depression or anxiety within a few months of the transplant and a caregiver who smokes.

"Understanding which patients go back to smoking should help us design more effective intervention strategies to aggressively target high risk patients as well as their caregivers," reported Carol Stilley, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing and psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh schools of Nursing and Medicine.

"Among the general population, about 90 percent of those who try to quit will relapse within a year, so in many ways our transplant patients are showing much greater willpower. Yet the detrimental effects of smoking depend on how much and for how long someone smoked, and in an immunosuppressed patient, these detrimental effects are likely to be much greater," added Mary Amanda Dew, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, psychology and epidemiology, and the study director.

Drugs that transplant patients take to prevent organ rejection suppress their immune systems, making these patients more susceptible to infections and cancers. A smoking history and relapse to smoking could very well compound cancer risks for transplant patients. Indeed, in recent years, transplant teams have seen more of their heart transplant patients develop inoperable lung tumors -- all previous smokers -- four to five years after their transplants. Smoking reduces survival; studies conducted in Europe have indicate

Contact: Lisa Rossi
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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