Doctors Perform First Successful Organ Donation from Newborn in UK

Kidneys transplanted from infant who died days after birth.

Kidneys transplanted from infant who died days after birth.

English doctors recently performed a landmark procedure when they carried out the first successful organ donation from a newborn in the UK.

In a study published recently in the Fetal & Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood, the procedure involved the transplantation of the kidneys, which were given to a patient suffering renal failure. The child’s liver cells also were transfused into another patient.

"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," the study authors wrote. "This case has set a milestone in the care of newborns in the UK.”

The infant female was born at term following an emergency caesarean section in the neonatal unit of Hammersmith Hospital in London. The child weighed just over 3 kg, but her brain had clearly been oxygen starved for a period at some point during the pregnancy.

The infant’s condition did not improve following treatment. Additionally, the infant was unable to make any spontaneous movement, did not respond to any stimuli, and had fixed and dilated pupils, the authors wrote.

The infant’s parents and her clinicians discussed donating her organs after reaching the conclusion that she would not survive. The parents ultimately granted consent for the donation of the infant’s kidneys and liver cells.

Just 6 days after birth, the child’s death was confirmed. A procedure was subsequently carried out to remove the tissues with the aid of an experienced surgeon from the National Organ Retrieval Service.

The study noted that a significant proportion of newborns who die in neonatal units could possibly donate their organs, but it’s difficult for donors to be identified under current guidelines. As a result, updated guidelines from the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health are expected to be released in order to standardize how to approach the process, which could launch a new paradigm regarding 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," the authors concluded.