SUNDAY, Nov. 13, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Unborn babies diagnosed with severe heart problems who are put on the heart transplant list before birth get new hearts more quickly than babies listed after birth, according to a new study.
The findings are to be presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
After reviewing cases of fetal heart patients, including 46 unborn babies listed for heart transplants, researchers led by Dr. Jennifer Conway, with the department of pediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, found at least half of the babies listed before birth got their hearts one month after they were born -- two months sooner than infants listed as newborns. The unborn babies were listed an average of 18 days before birth.
Babies placed on the transplant list before they were born waited a median time of 25 days for their new heart, compared with 39 days for babies put on the list after birth. The study found that once they received their transplants there were no significant differences in outcomes among any of the babies.
Differences did exist in the main cause of death between the unborn babies and the newborns waiting for hearts. Although the majority of the babies in the study suffered from congenital heart disease, most unborn babies on the transplant list who died from their heart condition had multi-system failure. Meanwhile, heart failure was the most common cause of death among newborns on the waiting list.
The study authors concluded that unborn babies diagnosed with severe heart disease should be placed on the transplant list before they are born so they do not have to wait as long for a new heart.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides more information on congenital heart defects.