Doctors in London have carried out the UK’s first newborn baby transplant procedure. Doctors at Hammersmith Hospital transplanted liver cells and kidneys from a six day old baby girl and gave them to two individuals after her heart stopped and she sadly passed away.
In a gesture, which doctors described as an “act of extraordinary generosity”, the parents of the donor agreed that her organs could be transplanted. The baby girl was born in extremely poor health and she had profound brain damage. Tests revealed that the baby had been starved of oxygen during the pregnancy and failed to recover, despite resuscitation and intensive treatment. When her heart ceased beating 6 days after she was born, her parents approved transplanting her functioning organs and liver cells and kidneys were given to two recipients.
The kidneys were transplanted into a patient with renal failure, while the liver cells were donated to a patient who suffered with liver failure.
Surgeons described the procedure as very complex, as the organs are underdeveloped. At this stage, the kidneys are only around 4cm in length. However, it is possible for organs from neonates to be donated to newborns, older babies, children and even adults in some cases.
Prof James Neuberger, from NHS Blood and Transplant, said that it was excellent news that the first newborn transplant operation had been a success and he also praised the generosity of the baby’s parents, at what must have been a very distressing and upsetting time.
Dr Gaurav Atraja, who was part of the operating team, said that the family took positivity out of a very negative situation, as they were able to see that the decision they made was helping others. The care team is continuing to support them.
Doctors now believe that more life-saving procedures will take place in the future, although current legislation in the UK is rather restrictive. Details of the case have been recorded in the Foetal & Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood.