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Babies May Benefit From Liver Transplant Advances

THURSDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Transplanting partial livers from deceased teen and adult donors to infants is less risky than in the past and helps save lives, according to a new study.

The risk of organ failure and death among infants who receive a partial liver transplant is now comparable to that of infants who receive whole livers, according to the study, which was published online in the June issue of the journal Liver Transplantation.

Size-matched livers for infants are in short supply and the use of partial grafts from deceased donors now accounts for almost one-third of liver transplants in children, the researchers said.

"Infants and young children have the highest waitlist mortality rates among all candidates for liver transplant," study senior author Dr. Heung Bae Kim, director of the Pediatric Transplant Center at Boston Children's Hospital, said in a journal news release.

"Extended time on the liver transplant waitlist also places children at greater risk for long-term health issues and growth delays, which is why it is so important to look for methods that shorten the waitlist time to reduce mortality and improve quality of life for pediatric patients," Kim said.

For the new study, Kim and his colleagues examined data from nearly 2,700 children younger than age 2 who underwent partial liver or whole liver transplants in the United States between 1995 and 2010.

Between 1995 and 2000, whole livers were much more likely than partial livers to survive after transplantation into infants. But the rates became similar between 2001 and 2010, which suggests that the use of partial livers became less risky over time, the researchers said.

The adjusted risk of transplant failure and death was similar for partial and whole organs between 2006 and 2010, according to the study.

There is evidence that partial organs donated from living donors are superior to those from deceased donors, but they accounted for less than 11 percent of liver transplants to children in 2010, according to the news release. Since 2002, there has been an eight-fold increase in the use of partial livers from deceased donors.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about liver transplants and children.

SOURCE: Liver Transplantation, news release, June 11, 2013

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