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Cohen Children’s Medical Center to begin kidney transplants

Pamela Singer, medical director for the pediatric kidney

Pamela Singer, medical director for the pediatric kidney transplant program at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, and Ernesto P. Molmenti, surgical director of the hospital's children's transplant program on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park has been granted approval from the state health department to begin a pediatric kidney transplant program — a first on Long Island — which hospital executives say will start later this year.

The program fills a major void on the Island and provides a lifesaving service closer to home for parents who otherwise would have to travel to Manhattan, or out of state. Once up and running, the kidney transplant program will be housed in the medical center’s division of pediatric nephrology, said Dr. Charles Schleien, executive director of Cohen Children’s, and senior vice president and chair of pediatrics at Northwell Health.

“We are very excited about the program and being able to bring this level of care to the local community,” Schleien said Wednesday.

Medical conditions necessitating a kidney transplant during childhood can stem from any one of several underlying disorders: Some children are born with hereditary conditions, while systemic illnesses, such as lupus, may develop in later childhood years, Schleien said.

Kidney transplants in children are relatively rare, but critically necessary when the organs fail, doctors say.

The kidneys are twin bean-shaped organs, purplish in color, and located just below the rib cage. The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that, on average, the kidneys of teens and adults, when healthy, filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood daily to produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine.

Children with severe kidney disease, however, tend to grow at a slower rate than their peers and may miss school more frequently because of medical appointments and dialysis, institute experts say.

Currently, Cohen’s pediatric kidney specialists see more than 1,100 patients annually, including about 50 children with end-stage kidney disease and 13 dialysis patients, Schleien said. He added that the center is one of the largest pediatric nephrology programs statewide.

“At present, we are taking care of all patients up to the point when they are eligible for a transplant. Then, they have to travel to do that. This will allow our patients to receive the surgery at the place where they receive their care,” Schleien said.

He and his colleagues expect the new program to perform about five to 10 transplants annually.

Dr. Ernesto Molmenti, who also serves as surgical director of Northwell Health’s adult kidney transplant center in Manhasset, will serve in the same capacity with the pediatric program. Dr. Pamela Singer has been chosen as medical director. Both physicians said children would benefit by receiving all care closer to home.

“The transplant program will complete the spectrum of chronic kidney disease services provided by the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at Cohen,” Singer said Wednesday.

The closest major pediatric transplant centers are at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. There is also a pediatric transplant center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Some parents have chosen, however, to travel to pediatric transplant centers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia or Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Our program will be structurally complex,” Schleien said Wednesday, noting that he and his colleagues have designed a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses and social workers, among other health professionals.

Northwell Health’s adult kidney transplant center opened in 2007 and since that time, Molmenti and Dr. Louis Kavoussi, the health system’s chairman of urology, have performed more than 235 transplants.