Heart Transplants Save Youngest Of Babies Who Might Otherwise Have No Donor

Armen Hareyan's picture

Transplant of Heart

Transplant leaders at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC are increasingly turning to an innovative procedure to make transplant surgery an option for young children with life-threatening heart failure.

Typically anyone receiving an organ transplant must receive an organ from a donor of the same or compatible blood type in order to avoid severe rejection. However, infants and children up to about age 2 can receive hearts from donors of incompatible blood types because they have not yet developed certain antibodies that would lead to acute rejection, according to Steven A. Webber, MBChB, chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at Children's.


Such heart transplants are called ABO incompatible transplants and Children's Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation has performed five in the last year under the leadership of Dr. Webber and Victor O. Morell, MD, chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Children's.

"About one in five children waiting for a heart transplant will die before an organ becomes available because of a scarcity of heart donors," said Dr. Webber, professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Incompatible heart transplants open the donor pool considerably and are an emerging option for very young children who might otherwise die waiting for a heart."

Children's transplant physicians and surgeons are exploring such cutting-edge approaches to improve outcomes from transplant and reduce the mortality of pediatric patients waiting for a transplant. The national organ donor shortage