Some patients with disabling and potentially fatal lung disease, who are nonresponders to conventional treatment, could benefit from lung transplantation (LT). It is, therefore, necessary to know the number of patients who are potentially eligible for such a therapeutic procedure. A retrospective study of the mortality rate of the Italian population from 1989-1991 was carried out. Groups of non-neoplastic chronic respiratory diseases, for which LT is indicated, were identified according to the Italian Central Statistical Institute (ISTAT), analytical international classification of diseases, trauma and causes of death (9th revision of 1975). The distribution of these diseases was considered both in terms of the total number of deaths (all ages) and in the relative number prior to 60 yrs of age (the maximum acceptable age for LT). Twenty five ISTAT codes referring to chronic non-neoplastic lung diseases for which LT is indicated were identified, and grouped according to disease type. The total national mortality rate from 1989-1991 due to selected lung diseases for which transplant is indicated was 44,915 (14,335 in 1989, 15,271 in 1990, and 15,309 in 1991), and 2,774 (6%) of these deaths occurred below the age limit of 60 yrs (986 in 1989, 889 in 1990, and 899 in 1981). Considering the normal limitations of retrospective studies on mortality rate, and the fact that only one eligibility criterion for LT (age) was considered, the results obtained provide an indirect evaluation and overestimation of the potential candidates for such treatment in Italy, and the relative need for organ donation.
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