Blood-Incompatible Heart Transplants Safe for Infants

MONDAY Nov. 5, 2007 -- Blood group-incompatible heart transplants can safely be performed in infants age 1 year or younger and could help reduce death rates among infants with heart problems, say U.S. researchers.

Of 591 cases examined from national data reported to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)from 1999 to 2007, 35 infants (6 percent) received hearts from blood-group incompatible donors.

"There was no difference in outcome between incompatible and compatible transplantation in these infants. Survival between the two groups was similar (75 percent) at three years," senior study author Dr. Luca A. Vricella, chief of pediatric heart transplantation at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, said in a prepared statement.

Using blood-group incompatible donor hearts could significantly reduce the number of infants who die while waiting for a new heart. Babies under the age of 12 months have immature immune systems that are less likely to attack a donated heart, the researchers explained.

"Mortality could be reduced by at least 20 percent using incompatible donors. There would be a huge impact on infants who otherwise have to rely on a very small donor pool," Vricella said.

Currently, the average wait for a new infant heart is more than two months, and up to 40 percent of infants die before they receive a donor heart.

The study was to be presented Monday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart transplants in infants and children.

Posted: November 2007


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