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Infant Organ Donors Could Help Meet Transplant Needs: Study

THURSDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The organs of about 8 percent of infants who suffer cardiac death in newborn intensive care units (NICUs) would be eligible for donation and could help save the lives of other infants and young children, according to a new study.

Children younger than 1 year old account for about 100 of the more than 200,000 people in the United States on an organ transplant waiting list. But currently, infants and young children who need an organ transplant can only receive an organ from an older child or part of an adult organ.

In addition to the challenge of fitting a larger organ into an infant's body, demand for adult organs exceeds supply, noted Dr. Richard Parad, a neonatologist in the newborn medicine department at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), and his colleagues at Children's Hospital Boston and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

"A key motivation behind this study was our inability to act, under current guidelines, on the direct requests from parents faced with the loss of their newborn who turned to us wanting their child to be an organ donor," Parad said in a BWH news release.

These parents want some good to come from their tragic loss, he added.

In this study, the researchers analyzed 192 deaths that occurred in the NICUs of three academic medical centers between 2005 and 2007. Eligibility for organ donation was based on criteria developed with transplantation surgeons and the New England Organ Bank.

Of the 192 infants who died, 14 livers, 18 kidneys and 10 hearts may have been eligible for donation, the researchers concluded.

The researchers said their main objective was to provide data regarding the availability of infant donors. "Further investigation into this potential falls to those in the fields of transplant medicine and ethics. We feel we owe it to the families who request organ donation to be part of the conversation by investigating the size of the potential donor population," study co-author Dr. Anne Hansen, of Children's Hospital Boston, said in the news release.

More information

The United Network for Organ Sharing has more about children and transplants.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, Jan. 4, 2011

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Infant Organ Donors Could Help Meet Transplant Needs: Study
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