First successful organ donation from newborn carried out in UK

24 January 2015

Doctors at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust have reported the first successful organ donation from a newborn to be carried out in the UK.

The baby's kidneys were transplanted into a patient with renal failure, and her liver cells  were transfused into another recipient.

The donor was a girl born at term after an emergency caesarean section in the neonatal unit of Hammersmith Hospital, London.

She weighed just over three kilograms, but was very sick, and it became clear that her brain had been starved of oxygen for a period during the pregnancy.

The parents and clinicians involved in her care discussed the possibility of organ donation when it became clear that she would not survive.

Supported by the organ donation team, the nursing staff, and the hospital's psychologist, the parents gave their consent for their daughter's kidneys and liver cells to be used for the benefit of other sick patients.

Six days after she was born, and with death confirmed, these tissues were retrieved with the help of an experienced surgeon from the National Organ Retrieval Service.

Dr Gaurav Atreja and Dr Sunit Godambe, neonatologists at Imperial College Healthcare, report the  transplant in the Fetal and Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Dr Godambe is also an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London.

''It is due to the extreme generosity of the parents and wonderful professional collaboration between the neonatal team and the organ donation team that this process was successful,'' they write. ''This case has set a milestone in the care of newborns in the UK.''

They point out that a significant proportion of newborns that die in neonatal units could be potential organ donors, and could therefore save the lives of other sick patients, but current guidelines make it very difficult for donors to be identified.

New guidelines from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health are due very soon, which should help to standardise an approach to organ donation among newborns, the authors say.

They go on to express hope that the guidance will kick-start a new way of thinking about neonatal organ donation.

''We hope that neonatal units across the UK will actively start thinking about this noble cause, which makes the grieving family's journey easier, and has the potential to transform another life,'' they conclude.

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