Stories about: Research

Surgeon advocates to increase split liver procedures to save children on the transplant waiting list

Every year, dozens of infants and small children in need of a liver transplant die waiting for a donor organ to become available. But it’s not usually a lack of donor organs (grafts) that prevents doctors from saving these children—it’s a lack of organs small enough to fit in their bodies.

“Infants and young children waiting for a new liver are at the greatest risk of dying on the organ waiting list, mainly due to a shortage of appropriately sized organs for them,” says Heung Bae Kim, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Transplant Center. “It’s a troubling statistic, but there are things that can be done to change that.”

The change Kim is referring to would alter current donor organ allocation policies to make more livers available for a special surgical technique called split liver transplantation. Split liver transplantation occurs when a donated adult liver is carefully segmented into two unequally sized portions—the larger segment is given to an adult patient and the smaller portion to a child—saving two people from a single organ.

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Giving children a heart valve that can grow with them

Allie Duhe

When her twins were born, everything seemed to be going according to plan for Emily Duhe. “My husband and I wanted lots of kids, and we were so happy to start a big family,” she recalls.

Within a couple of months, though, it was clear that one of the twins, Allie, was in trouble. “We brought her to the hospital thinking she had pneumonia,” Emily says.

“That’s when they found multiple defects in her heart.”

Logan Narolis

It’s a familiar story. Margaret Narolis’ son Logan was also born with a major heart defect. “When Logan was born we were told he’d need to have multiple surgeries to reconstruct his heart,” she says.

The two families, separated by thousands of miles—the Duhes live in Louisiana, the Narolises in upstate New York—both came to Boston Children’s Hospital looking for better treatment options for their children’s damaged hearts.

Fortunately, they found what they were looking for.

Logan and Allie are now part of a small group whose hearts are beating with the help of a new expandable replacement valve—one that essentially can be made to grow as they do.

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Boston Children’s research in the news

image: flickr /christopher.woo

Boston Children’s Hospital made the headlines this week, when major news outlets across the globe reported on new studies from many of our researchers.

We’re well known for our world-class care and innovative approach to pediatrics, but did you know we also have a long, distinguished tradition in clinical research? And on more than one occasion that research has advanced not just pediatric care, but all of medicine.

Here’s a quick recap of some of our recent research coverage:

David Ludwig, MD, PhD

Researchers Cara Ebbeling, PhD, and David Ludwig, MD, PhD, of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospitalthis week published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggesting that all calories aren’t created equal. The study looked at three diets (low-fat, low-carb and low-glycemic) in order to see which helped participants keep pounds off after losing weight. Even though all three diets consisted of the same amount of calories, the low-glycemic diet came out on top.

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Treating childhood cancer: 60 years of progress

Jean in 1968

When Jean Shaw first came to Children’s Hospital Boston in 1951, the world was a rapidly changing place. The Korean War was escalating new tensions between America and the Soviet Union, a reactor in Idaho became the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power source and teenagers everywhere were discovering a new type of music called rock n’ roll.

Fortunately for Jean, the world of medicine was changing as well.

When she arrived in Boston to seek a cure for osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that occurs most often in teenagers, the standard treatment was amputation. It was a successful method in the short-term, but over time the cancer came back, often in a more lethal form like lung cancer. Given the severity of the diagnosis, Jean’s mother was frightened. It was a great relief when their doctor, Sydney Farber, MD, said he saw a different treatment option for the young girl.

Sydney Farber, MD

“When the doctor in our home town told my mama I had bone cancer she was terrified, because the doctor said he hadn’t known of any child who survived the disease, even after they had their limb removed,” Jean remembers. “Still, he suggested we go to Children’s Hospital Boston to see if they could help. When we got there Dr. Farber took a look at me and said there may be a different way to treat me.”

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