Kidney Donation from Babies Overlooked for Transplantation

Kidney Donation from Babies Overlooked for Transplantation

Doctors have revealed that kidneys from babies who pass away shortly before or after birth are often disregarded for transplantation into children and adults due to the sensitivity surrounding the topic with grieving parents. While some countries, including the UK and the US, do perform these transplants a few times a year, there is a call to expand the practice. The scarcity of organ donations has resulted in a long waiting list for organs, and doctors believe that the use of newborn baby kidneys could save lives.

Although newborn babies’ kidneys are smaller than those of adults, they rapidly grow when transplanted into children or adults. Due to the smaller size and weight of a young child’s kidneys, both kidneys are removed and transplanted together on one side of the recipient’s body. Transplanting a pair of kidneys from a newborn baby is said to be sufficient to perform the work of one adult kidney within three months.

Kidney transplantation is a vital procedure for individuals with kidney failure, but the demand for donor organs far exceeds the supply, resulting in thousands of deaths each year while on waiting lists. Organ donation is typically only possible in specific cases, such as after a severe injury or stroke, when it becomes evident that the individual’s condition is unsurvivable. Babies who die from oxygen deprivation during childbirth or due to severe congenital conditions diagnosed during pregnancy are potential donors, but hospitals often hesitate to approach grieving parents about organ donation.

While some hospitals in the UK do occasionally ask parents for permission in such circumstances, it remains an infrequent occurrence. Concerns about the success rate of neonatal kidney transplants compared to those from adult donors exist. Neonatal kidneys are more susceptible to developing blood clots shortly after transplantation, which can lead to damage and the need for removal. However, in the long term, the kidneys tend to perform well due to their excellent condition.

Research from 2018 indicates that the long-term success rate of kidney transplants from babies or older children is similar to that of adult donor organs. Approximately 90 percent of transplanted kidneys from babies or older children were functioning after 12 months, compared to around 95 percent for kidneys from adult donors. The NHS Blood and Transplant department in the UK is actively working on neonatal donation initiatives and collaborating with neonatal units to offer organ donation opportunities whenever possible.


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