Spanish child receives intestinal transplant

A one-year-old Spanish girl became the first in the world to receive a successful bowel transplant from a donor who died of heart failure, La Paz Hospital in Madrid said on Tuesday.

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“The child has now been released and is in pristine condition at home with his parents,” he said in a statement.

Spain is a world leader in organ transplants, with over 102 per million people performed in 2021, a rate only exceeded by the United States, according to data from the Spanish Department of Health.

The infant, Emma, had been diagnosed with intestinal insufficiency when she was only a month old because her bowel was too short, and her health deteriorated rapidly before receiving multi-visceral transplantation.

In addition to the intestinal tract, Emma also received a new liver, stomach, spleen, and pancreas.

The good news is that life goes on, that Emma is very courageous, and that she proves every day that she wants to continue living, her mother told reporters before thanking the donor’s family and the doctors. She said Emma is now 17 months of age.

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Asystolic donations come from a deceased person after doctors confirm the absence of a heartbeat and respiratory function.

The donor’s organs are then artificially stored – despite the absence of oxygenated blood – through a system called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO).

What makes Emma’s case particular is the difficulty of preserving an intestinal asystole donation due to the characteristics of the digestive organ.

Most transplanted organs come from donors who have suffered brain death but still have a heartbeat which keeps the organs intact.

However, since the development of modern asystolic donations, the popularity of the technique has grown to make up about one-third of all donations in Spain, La Paz said.

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