SSM Health Medical Minute: Infant hemodialysis a viable option as bridge to transplant

Medical Minute

ST. LOUIS – Nephrologists at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital are experts in the care of infants born with kidney disease. They offer one of the most comprehensive programs using both peritoneal dialysis, but also hemodialysis to support and help tiny babies grow.

Hemodialysis is normally used on adults, but Dr. Craig Belsha, a SLUCare Nephrologist, says, “in babies because of their very small size and the small size of their blood vessels, it’s especially challenging to do dialysis that way.”

This is for babies whose kidneys may not have developed properly during birth or they had problems occur after birth that required dialysis.

This is a bridge to transplant because, as Dr. Belsha notes, “Our goal is to get the babies big enough for them to receive a transplant. A baby needs to be roughly 22 pounds to be big enough for a kidney transplant.”

The goal with hemodialysis is to help the baby grow and survive to be large enough for transplant. Dr. Belsha says infants only have about 8-9 oz of blood in their body so treatments in infants who receive hemodialysis can be 4-5 hours long, five to six days per week.

“We prefer the peritoneal dialysis because we don’t have issues with taking blood out of the body directly, the babies who require this don’t have that option because they have had recent surgery or infection where infant hemodialysis is their only option for them.”

A small catheter is placed into a vein and the blood flow goes through an artificial kidney. Blood flows through the fibers and gets cleaned and goes through a sterile channel back into the body.

“It helps to get rid of their waste products and give them nutrition they need to be big enough for transplant.”

For more information on Infant Hematology, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7 p.m. and FOX 2 News at 9 p.m.

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