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Child who got transplant after legal fight is recovering

By Ellen Wulfhorst

(Reuters) - A 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl with cystic fibrosis who became eligible for an adult organ transplant after a legal battle waged by her family was recovering on Thursday from double-lung transplant surgery, a family spokeswoman said.

The most immediate risks facing Sarah Murnaghan, a day after she received lungs from an adult donor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, were the possibility of bleeding and the chance the lungs were damaged and do not function properly, experts said.

The threat of organ rejection typically does not begin until a month or so following surgery, they said.

Murnaghan, who was recovering at the hospital, underwent a so-called lobar transplant, family spokesman Tracy Simon said, meaning she received lobes rather than entire lungs.

Her family had sued to prevent the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from enforcing a policy that prevents children under age 12 from getting adult lung transplants, even if they are extremely ill.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson granted the family a 10-day temporary restraining order on June 5.

The family, which waged a successful media campaign as well as a legal battle for the child, did not provide any additional details about her condition on Thursday. The family lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square.

Her mother wrote on Facebook on Wednesday after the six-hour surgery that the family expects the recovery "will be a long road, but we're not going for easy, we're going for possible."

Transplanting adult lungs into a child does not present any special problems, experts said.

Pediatric lung transplants are relatively rare. About 100 are done worldwide each year, compared with some 3,000 adult lung transplants, said Dr. David Weill, director of the Center for Advanced Lung Disease at Stanford University, which has conducted about 30 such procedures.

A transplant does not cure cystic fibrosis, known as CF, but significantly boosts the chance of survival, Weill said. The average hospital stay for such a transplant patient is generally about two weeks, he said.

CF is an inherited disease of the mucus glands, which primarily affects respiratory and digestive systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with CF have an average lifespan of about 30 years, the CDC said.

Most CF patients die of lung disease, Weill said.

"While you haven't really cured the disease, you've taken away the No. 1 mortality factor," he said.

Dr. Frank D'Ovidio, surgical director of the Lung Transplant Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, said the five-year survival rate for CF patients who have undergone lung transplants is 70 to 75 percent.

No details have been released about the donor.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Leslie Adler)

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