June 7, 2014 –Dr. Claudio Ronco and his colleagues at the San Bortolo Hospital in Vicenza, Italy designed a mini-dialysis machine specifically for babies who weigh less than 10 kilograms (22 pounds).
Just a few weeks after the mini dialysis machine was licensed by European authorities, a three-day-old baby girl suffering from multiple organ failure became their first patient.
"Only a small number of babies need this treatment, but it could be life-saving," said Dr. Heather Lambert, a paediatric kidney specialist and spokesperson for Britain's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
1 to 2% of hospitalized infants have kidney problems that may require dialysis. Using a standard dialysis machine for a baby can pose risks because the device can’t be accurately tweaked to obtain optimal results.
Dialysis is a process that removes waste and excess water from the blood and is primarily used as an artificial replacement for lost kidney function.
After being treated for about a month on dialysis, the baby has mild kidney problems and needs vitamin D supplements but is otherwise growing normally.
"…she's doing great," said Dr. Ronco.
"This is a pretty major advance for the smallest infants," said Dr. Bethany Foster, an Associate Professor of Paediatrics at the Montreal Children's Hospital in Canada.
Ten other babies across Europe have been treated with the mini-dialysis machine.