East China's youngest heart transplant recipient discharged

Cai Wenjun
Of nearly one million patients with terminal heart failure, children account for a very small proportion, making pediatric heart transplants challenging, and donors are few.
Cai Wenjun
East China's youngest heart transplant recipient discharged
Ti Gong

A 1-year-old girl is discharged from the Children's Hospital of Fudan University on Thursday after a successful heart transplant.

A 1-year-old girl who had a heart transplant was discharged from the Children's Hospital of Fudan University on Thursday, setting a record for the youngest patient to have a successful heart transplant in East China, the hospital announced.

The patient, from Xiaman in Fujian Province, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at the age of three months. She was transferred between hospitals for treatment.

The parents took her to the Children's Hospital of Fudan University two months ago, and doctors hospitalized her immediately when they saw her heart was enlarged.

Doctors said the patient's heart failure was very serious and medication failed to have controled her condition. A heart transplant was the only solution to save her life.

Due to a limited number of donated organs, there are only 500 to 600 heart transplant surgeries conducted in China annually. Among the nearly one million patients in the terminal stage of heart failure, children account for a very small proportion, making pediatric heart transplants very challenging. The hospital is one of only a few hospitals with the qualification to perform children's heart transplants in China.

The girl had been on a donor waiting list since then. During that time, she suffered a severe respiratory infection but recovered after treatment.

The girl got a new heart finally on November 6, when the heart of a one-and-a-half-year-old child who had died was donated. Doctors took an ambulance to harvest the donated heart in another province right away and returned with it by midnight, when the transplant surgery immediately begun.

The girl's condition improved quickly after surgery and she was transferred back to an ordinary ward in the first week post-surgery for further rehabilitation and treatment, doctors said.

"There are about 40,000 children suffering heart failure due to congenital or after-birth causes in the nation each year," said Dr Ye Ming, director of the hospital's cardiac surgery department. "If the disease develops into a terminal stage, a heart transplant is the only cure. The technical requirements of transplanting a child's heart are much higher than those for adults, and there are fewer donated organs. China completes about 50 children's heart transplants each year.

"The patient in surgery was only 1 year and 9 months old and weighed 7.5 kilograms. She recovered very well after the surgery and treatment, and the heart function has improved without complications. This is because of the efforts and cooperation of various departments and teams in the hospital," Ye added.

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