Baby Survives Heart Surgery in the Womb

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia performs only second such operation
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2017 12:43 PM CDT
Emergency Heart Surgery Saves Fetus About to Die
Cecilia Cella with her daughter Baz and baby Juan.   (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)

When a woman in Uruguay learned that her 20-week-old fetus was about to die from a tumor taking over his heart, she flew to the one place in the world she knew could help: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In 2013, the facility performed the first successful surgery to remove a fetal heart tumor, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. And now doctors there have done it again. They managed the feat in October on baby Juan in a delicate operation more complicated than the first. Doctors placed the mother, Cecilia Cella, under general anesthesia, then made an incision in her uterus to drain the amniotic fluid, further anesthetized the fetus, and carefully lifted his tiny arms out of the uterus to bring his chest up to make an incision, cut the ribs, and remove the tumor, per Live Science.

While they couldn't cut out the last 2% of the tumor for fear of hurting the heart, it bought him time and Juan survived. The rest of the still-growing tumor was removed a few weeks after his birth at 31 weeks. He's almost four months old now and thriving. "We've only been able to watch these tumors grow and inform the mother that the fetus probably would not be able to survive," one surgeon says. Now, "a different result is possible." The family returned to Uruguay in March. "It was a hard time, crazy time, but we are extremely happy how everything was solved," says dad Pablo Paladino, per CBS News. (Fetal surgery has also corrected spina bifida.)

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