Children's Health

UK doctors perform first newborn organ transplant in country

A premature infant in the NICU.

A premature infant in the NICU.

The parents of a six-day-old girl have decided to donate their newborn’s organs after her heart stopped beating due to oxygen starvation and brain damage in the womb, reported. 

The donation marks the first time that doctors in the United Kingdom have transplanted organs from a newborn.

The baby girl, who was not named, was delivered via a Caesarian section at Hammersmith Hospital in London. She weighed just over 6 pounds and was full term. But when doctors determined she was sick, they gave her parents the option to donate her kidneys and liver cells to other patients in need.

“When we explained to the parents of the baby girl it could be possible to save some lives with their help, they were only too keen. They came back wanting to speak to me again within a couple of hours,” Dr. Gaurav Atreja, a neonatologist at Hammersmith Hospital, told BBC Radio 4.

A patient who had renal failure received the girl’s kidneys, and a second patient received her liver cells by transfusion.

According to the Times of India, new guidelines from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health are being developed, and they are expected to help standardize newborn organ donations in Britain.

"We hope that neonatal units across the U.K. will actively start thinking about this noble cause, which makes the grieving family's journey easier and has the potential to transform another life," doctors told the Times of India.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are no age limitations on who can donate organs in the United States. Senior citizens as well as newborns have been organ donors. Between 2008 and 2013, only 21 organ donors in the U.S. were a week old or less, the United Network for Organ Sharing has estimated.

Surgeons said the operation for the British newborn was rigorous and complicated, the Times of India reported. At six days, the kidneys are just under 2 inches long.

The March of Dimes, a nonprofit that advocates for the health of newborns and their mothers, estimates that 19,000 babies die every year during their first month of life in the U.S. alone.

Click for more from the BBC.

Click for more from The Times of India.