Doctor Removes Tumor From Patient Not Born Yet

Surgery at Cleveland Clinic is thought to be only the second of its kind worldwide
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2021 12:53 PM CST
Doctor Removes Tumor From Patient Not Born Yet
Stock image   (Getty/faustasyan)

A surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio successfully removed a rare tumor from the heart of his patient, but even rarer were the circumstances—the patient had yet to be born. As News5Cleveland reports, it's only the second time worldwide such an operation has been successfully performed. The surgery was necessitated when Sam Drinnon had an ultrasound in April that spotted something off; follow-up tests showed the fetus she had been carrying for nearly 27 weeks had an extremely rare condition known as cardiac teratoma. Essentially, a tumor was compressing on the heart, and specialists at the Ohio hospital estimated the fetus would not live another two weeks without surgery.

"There’s not tons of medical literature about this," Dr. Darrell Cass, who led the surgical team, tells Today. "You know, it’s a handful of cases." In fact, an explainer about the case posted by the hospital notes that the only other successful surgery of this type took place in 2013 at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In that case, the fetus was even younger, but the tumor was not as advanced. Just 36 hours after discussing the options with Drinnon, Cass and his team went into the fetus' chest cavity, removed the tumor, then repositioned the fetus so the pregnancy could continue.

Ten weeks later, Drinnon gave birth to a healthy Ryland Drinnon. "I would talk to him all the time," Sam Drinnon recalls of the weeks after the surgery, when Ryland was still in the womb. "I would just tell him that everything’s gonna be OK, and I got you. We’re gonna get through this and come out strong." That appears to be the case. “He will need to be monitored for a couple of years but has a good prognosis,” says pediatric cardiologist Francine Erenberg, another member of the surgical team. (More uplifting news stories.)

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