THURSDAY, May 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Italian researchers
have successfully used a small kidney dialysis machine they
invented to treat newborns with kidney failure.
"We have developed a machine for neonates [newborns] who were not treatable before," said lead researcher Dr. Claudio Ronco, director of the department of nephrology at San Bortolo Hospital in Vicenza.
"The neonate is so small that it requires dedicated technology," he said. "To try to treat the patient with an adult machine is like trying to fix a watch with a tool that you use for a large car."
Adult-size dialysis machines can be modified for use with
children. But, the machines are difficult to use in infants because
they can overpower an infant's tiny blood vessels, the researchers
said. And, the machines generally can't be used on babies under 6.6
pounds or so, according to Dr. Ana Paredes, a pediatric
nephrologist at Miami Children's Hospital.
The new machine, called CARPEDIEM (Cardio-Renal Pediatric
Dialysis Emergency Machine), is a miniaturized device that supports
kidney function in newborns and small children weighing between 4.4
pounds and 22 pounds.
The advantage of the new machine is that it can handle very low
blood flow and filtration, and it uses tiny catheters that protect
the infant's blood vessels. In contrast, adult machines are
designed to handle much higher blood flow and use much larger
The report was published in the May 24 issue of
The Lancet. Funding for the study was provided by the
Association of Friends of the Kidney Vicenza.
Kidney dialysis is a procedure that uses a machine to help do
some of the kidneys' work when the kidneys aren't functioning
anymore (or aren't functioning well). Dialysis helps to filter some
of the waste products out of the blood, according to the National
Ronco's team tried the miniaturized dialysis machine for the
first time in August 2013. The first patient was an infant weighing
only 6.3 pounds. This infant had multiple organ failure after a
"This baby was dead -- it was considered dead," Ronco said. Without this machine, it was doubtful that this baby could have been treated, he added.
After more than 20 days of dialysis with the new device, the
infant was taken off the machine when kidney function had been
restored. The baby left the hospital after 50 days, the researchers
"To stay at the bedside of this baby with the machine we developed was to rediscover why I do medicine. It was satisfaction for 40 years of effort," said Ronco.
Since this first use of CARPEDIEM, 10 more infants have been
treated successfully with the device in Europe, Ronco said.
Ronco hopes to present the new technology to the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration for approval. "There is definitely an interest
in the United States for this machine," he said.
Dr. Benjamin Laskin, a pediatric nephrologist at the Children's
Hospital of Philadelphia and author of an accompanying journal
editorial, said when adult dialysis machines are used, they have to
be "jerry-rigged to make them work."
"Having a machine designed for infants is certainly an advantage," he said.
Laskin and his co-author wrote that more study is needed on the
CARPEDIEM machine to ensure that it's an effective option for
infants who need dialysis.
Paredes, who is also director of the Dialysis Unit Program at
Miami Children's Hospital, is excited about the potential of this
"This is a tremendous development," she said. "I look forward to using this machine in the U.S."
For more information on dialysis, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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