Fish oil helping prevent transplants for preemies

May 20, 2011 5:08:38 PM PDT
You've probably heard that fish oil can help your heart and even benefit your brain. Now, it's being used on the littlest of patients, and doctors say it's showing results.

These are omega-3 fish oil tablets. People take them to prevent heart disease. But Houston doctors have started giving a form of this omega-3 fish oil to very premature babies. Doctors say an IV of fish oil can reverse a life-threatening complication that is common among these fragile babies.

A baby, who was born three months premature, has a digestive system that doesn't work yet. She gets her food through an IV but that IV nutrition can end up causing damage to the intestines and liver. So she now gets a second IV of fish oil, called Omegaven, can prevent either an intestine or liver transplant.

"Using this fish oil emulsion, Omegaven, in patients with liver failure actually reversed the liver failure," Dr. Beth Carter said.

And babies already on the transplant list get well.

"All around it's been a great thing," Dr. Carter said.

"She was very, very yellow and now there's no trace of that at all," said Veronica Salinas, whose daughter was given fish oil.

Ten-month-old Jaelynn is one of the 59 babies in the Texas Children's Omegaven study.

"The Omegaven has made a big, big difference for Jaelynn," Salinas said.

Her intestines don't work and she's still partially fed through a tube.

Even out of the hospital, Jaelynn continues to take Omegaven as prevention.

"Intestinal transplant that's what we were afraid of," said Jaelynn's father, Salvador Salinas.

Omegaven is not FDA approved. But Dr. Carter hopes it will be soon.

"It would be helpful if we had it available and FDA approved for every infant in the United States," Dr. Carter said.

So preemie babies in other cities can have the same chance of survival.

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