Circulatory death donations to child recipients continue to be just a small fraction of the overall donation pool, the research team found. Just 31 such donations taking place in 2010, although that figure is way up from 2001, a year in which just a single such donation transpired.
The new findings appear in the June print issue of the journal Pediatrics.
On a decidedly positive note, Workman's team found that although the number of children on the transplant waiting list held steady throughout the study period, the number of children who died while awaiting a donation plummeted from a high of 262 in 2001 to 110 by 2010.
"So while this decline is great, from what we looked at we can't directly say that increasing DCDD donations has been the reason," Workman said. "But it seems logical to conclude that the more organs made available, the more it will help to relieve the waiting list strain. Even if these DCDD organs go to adults, it frees up other organs that might go to children. So everybody benefits."
Dr. Craig Lillehei, an associate professor in Harvard Medical School's department of surgery, and program director of Boston Children's Hospital's department of surgery, seconded the thought.
"I would totally agree with that," said Lillehei, who co-wrote an editorial accompanying Workman's study. "What we have is a big problem for both adults and children. And it is absolutely right that increasing the availability of organs overall ultimately helps everybody."
To learn more about organ donations, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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