Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Children's starts rare transplant

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is launching a small bowel transplant program to improve care for babies with rare conditions that cause their intestines to fail.

        A formal announcement is expected today when Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, visits the hospital. Sen. DeWine led efforts to win $765,000 in federal funding for the program.

        Cincinnati Children's expects about 20 children a year — mostly infants and toddlers — to be evaluated by its new Nutritional and Intestinal Care Center. About half the patients are expected to be sick enough to be placed on a national transplant waiting list.

        Premature birth, complications from other types of surgery, and several inherited diseases can cause a child's intestines to stop performing their vital function of absorbing nutrients from food, said Dr. Maria Alonso, a co-director of the program.

        Most can be treated with surgery or with special intravenous feeding formulas that can cost as much as $200,000 a year. Even with IV feeding, however, some children continue to decline, making them candidates for intestinal transplant.

        Children's Hospital joins a short list of hospitals that perform pediatric small bowel transplants. Others include the University of Pittsburgh, University of Nebraska and University of Miami.

        Nationwide, about 80 children per year get small bowel transplants, Dr. Alonso said. The biggest limitation is the lack of donor organs.

        While small children often can receive an adult-sized kidney, or a portion of an adult liver, transplanted intestines must be close to the size of recipient.

        So far, two children from Cincinnati's program have been placed on the national transplant waiting list. No one can predict how long they may have to wait, Dr. Alonso said.


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