Primary Children's Medical Center has been approved for membership in the United Network of Organ Sharing, which clears the way for heart transplants at the pediatric hospital, the facility's administrator announced Saturday.

Donald R. Poulter said the official approval enables Primary Children's to join LDS Hospital, University of Utah Health Sciences Medical Center and the Veteran's Administration Medical Center as a member institution of the UTAH Cardiac Transplant Program. Since its inception in March 1985, the UTAH Cardiac team has performed 188 heart transplants, including three for children between the ages of 5 and 19.The local team anticipates doing three to six pediatric transplants per year at Primary Children's Medical Center.

But Dr. Garth Orsmond, director of pediatric cardiology at the U. and Primary Children's, said specialists initially won't be transplanting hearts in newborns. That means that Whitney

Ray Petersen, the 2 1/2-week-old son of a Murray couple who received a new heart Saturday at Loma Linda University Medical Center, wouldn't have been an eligible candidate locally - even had Primary Children's been approved by the United Network of Organ Sharing sooner. (See accompanying story.)

Poulter said a child will become a candidate for a heart transplant at Primary Children's only after all other medical treatment options are exhausted and when life expectancy is less than one year.

Primary's program will concentrate on two problem areas in children - cardiomyopathy (sick heart muscle) and congenital heart disease. In addition to procuring a compatible heart of the appropriate size, physicians must determine that the child is able, psychologically and socially, to comply with the intensive lifelong medical regimen necessary after a transplant.

"We have offered strong cardiology services in the Intermountain area and have anticipated providing transplants here, rather than sending patients to other areas," Poulter said. "It is an honor for us to join the prestigious UTAH Cardiac Transplant Program."

The survival rate for UTAH Cardiac heart transplants is believed to be the highest in the world, with a one-year survival rate of 89 percent; two year of 87 percent, and a three year survival rate of 81 percent.

The latest official report of the International Registry of Heart Transplants indicates an average one-year survival rate of 76 percent, and a five-year survival rate of 71.3 percent, worldwide, in all patients since 1967.

Transplantation, performed in the United States since the 1960s, was not highly successful until the 1981 advent of cyclosporine, a drug that wards off rejection. There are 78 U.S. hospitals and 37 other medical centers worldwide that report to the International Registry of Heart Transplants.

Fewer than 25 of these centers perform pediatric heart transplants. As of July, 1986, some 4,060 transplants have been done worldwide, involving 258 children age 19 and younger. Loma Linda University Infant Heart Transplant Group has performed 23 heart transplants on patients under six months of age.

The UTAH Cardiac pediatric cardiac transplant team involves cardio-thoracic surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, nurses and social workers who will work together to provide the overall care necessary for heart transplantation in children, Poulter said.