Trisomy 18 and 13: More Children Like Bella Santorum Survive

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Feudtner said increases in hospitalization for children with Trisomy 18 and 13 may lead to greater success in improving their life expectancy. A similar trend happened in the 1960s and '70s for children with Down syndrome, who were once thought to be disabled beyond hope. But as more doctors began attempting and succeeding at repairing certain deformities, such as heart defects, the children survived longer.

"One would be making a big mistake to assume that the story will be exactly the same for children with Trisomy 13 or 18, but part of what is likely happening, is similar," he said.

Dr. Shawn McCandless, Director of the Center for Human Genetics at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said the children's ability to survive may depend on how they are treated and cared for within the medical system.

"We don't know how well these kids can do until we give them every opportunity to do their very best," McCandless said.

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