100 percent success rate for baby kidney transplants at U of M

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Three-year-old London Hall has no problems keeping up with her brothers now, but as an infant it quickly became clear her twin brother was reaching milestones she wasn't.

“[She was] three months old or so when we first started noticing that maybe when they were laying the floor she wasn't moving her legs and arm quite as much,” said Gloria Hall, London’s mom.

Later when London struggled to eat and keep food down, her parents learned they were both carriers of a rare gene mutation, which was now preventing London's kidney from processing proteins properly and she needed a transplant. At 17 months old, London received her mother's kidney.

“I remember someone saying that you gave life to her twice: birth and then donating a kidney,” said Branden Hall, London’s dad.

London's story is similar to the many success stories Dr. Srinath Chinnakotla from the University of Minnesota's Amplatz Children's Hospital recently researched. He studied pediatric kidney transplants at the U of M going back to the 1960’s and discovered most recently those performed on children under two years old have a 100 percent success rate after one year and five years. That's better than any other age group.

“When a child has kidney failure and you put them on dialysis, the dialysis only purifies about 10 percent of the blood, so those children don't develop well," said Dr. Chinnakotla. "They have growth failure and they have problems in achieving milestones as well. The studies we've done at our institution show once you do the kidney transplant, boy, they quickly grow like a weed.”

Dr. Chinnakotla points out the U of M is a longtime pioneer of living donor transplants. He says transplant teams nationwide typically wait until a child is at least two years old. The Halls agree with Dr. Chinnakotla's philosophy - some kids can't afford to wait.

“I do feel like there is a little bit of a different connection there, you really would do anything for your kid,” said Gloria.

March 9 happens to be World Kidney Day. According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are an estimated 400,000 people living with kidney disease in Minnesota alone and nearly 9,000 are on either dialysis or the transplant wait list. Doctor Chinnakotla says roughly 10 percent of patients on that wait list are children.