Kidney transplants from premature babies save adult lives

Cai Wenjun
Medical experts have announced a successful kidney transplant using donated kidneys from a deceased premature baby, to help save the life of an adult patient.
Cai Wenjun

Local medical experts have announced two successful organ transplants, using kidneys from a deceased pre-mature baby to save adult patients. In both cases, post-surgery data showed that both patients were recovering well. The operation also offered important evidence for using similar donated organs, and expanding organ sources.

Kidney transplants are the best treatments for patients with terminal kidney failure. Child donors are also an important source of the organ, but the surgery does have much higher requirements and the treatment outcomes can often be unpredictable. For donors who are newborn babies and infants with low weight, transplants can be hindered by the difficulty in surgery.

Experts from Renji Hospital and Shanghai Children's Medical Center successfully fulfilled two kidney transplants, using deceased premature babies with extreme low weight to save adult patients.

The study was published by world-leading journal American Journal of Transplantation.

Kidney transplants from premature babies save adult lives
Ti Gong

Kidneys donated by pre-mature babies are transplanted for adult patients.

The first case was a 29-week premature girl weighing only 1.07 kilograms. She died due to congenital heart disease and the parents donated her two kidneys, totaling 24 grams.

The surgery was extremely challenging due to the small size of the kidneys and thin arteries.

The transplant surgery in August, 2021 lasted nearly 10 hours. The pair of quail egg-sized kidneys were transplanted into a 34-year-old woman with uremia.

Follow-up visits on the patient found her data was close to normal levels, nine months after the transplant.

Another case was a 29-week premature girl weighing 1.17 kilograms who died due to serious anoxia brain disease in January of last year. With the parents' agreement, the kidneys totaling 27 grams were transplanted into the body of a 25-year-old woman with terminal kidney disease.

The patient's data was close to normal levels five months after the surgery, and dropped to healthy levels one year later.

These two cases are both successful kidney transplants with the youngest donors reported in the world so far.

Dr Zhang Ming from Renji Hospital's urological surgery department said kidneys donated by premature or newborn babies can't ensure a quick recovery for organ recipients soon after the transplant surgery. However, their donated organs have a strong potential, and it usually takes two years for the organs to take full effect. The data of the two organ recipients is still improving.

"Which means organs donated by premature and low-weight babies have good long-term outcomes. So far, Renji has fulfilled 22 kidney transplant operations using organs donated by deceased newborn babies," Zhang said .

For very young donors with very low weight, there is a lack of clinical data and guidelines in the global medical field. This research provides precious experiences to help direct medical practices and benefit more uremia patients, experts said.

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