Better dialysis for pint-sized patients

Young child standing next to a dialysis machine

Things made for adults don’t always fit children. Take dialysis equipment, for example. For children needing kidney dialysis, doctors are forced to adapt adult-sized dialysis equipment, which can cause complications. But children may eventually have a kidney-replacement device especially for them.

Researchers from Emory, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Georgia Tech are developing what could be the first FDA-approved kidney replacement device for children. They were awarded a $1 million grant from the NIH to refine a prototype.

“The adaptations doctors are forced to perform make adult kidney replacement devices inaccurate and potentially dangerous when used with kids,” says Emory pediatrician Matthew Paden, the grant’s principal investigator. “We have invented a new continuous renal replacement therapy device that can be used accurately on a six-pound child all the way up to a football linebacker.”

Adult equipment can withdraw too much fluid from a child, leading to dehydration and loss of blood pressure. The volume of blood required to fill up the tubes leading to and from the apparatus is too large—the smaller the child, the larger the proportion of blood outside the body, Paden says.

The team is testing their prototype in the laboratory and hopes to be ready for clinical trials in five years.

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Emory Medicine Summer 2010