Modern Miracle – In Utero Heart Surgery

Modern medicine has found ways to create absolute
miracles.  Not long ago, if a baby was
found to have certain abnormalities in the womb, there wasn’t much that the
doctors could do about the situation until the baby was born.  The nervous parents would have to wait until
delivery, and the doctors would then attempt to repair the heart, the diaphragm,
or the other area of the body that was damaged.

Today, however, there are amazing operations being
performed inside the uterus that increase the baby’s chances of survival and of
managing once they’ve entered the world.
One such operation is for in utero heart surgery.

Baby Grace’s Story

In January of 2006, doctors performed the first in
utero operation where a cardiac device was implanted in the growing fetus’ tiny
heart.  16 specialists at Children’s
Hospital in Boston
were part of the operation where a lifesaving stent was put into baby Grace’s
malformed heart to help her to develop better.

The parents were informed after a sonogram that
their daughter had hypoplastic left-heart syndrome.  This is a congenital defect where the left
ventricle of the heart doesn’t develop.
Doctors explained that Grace would have a 20% chance of survival even if
she had open heart surgery immediately after she was delivered.  With the in utero procedure that they did,
they expected that Grace had a significantly higher chance of survival after

How In Utero Surgery Works

Similar operations have been performed many times
in Boston, and other places throughout the United States.  Many times one part of the heart grows more
slowly than the other, and actually begins to shrink due to this problem and
the lack of blood flow.  This part of the
heart needs to be expanded to allow blood to flow properly and for the heart to

The procedure starts with the doctors placing a
needle through the mother’s abdomen, into the uterus, through the baby’s skin
and exactly into the baby’s heart.  This technology
is amazing, as it needs to be incredibly exact. In utero, the baby’s heart is
approximately the same size as a grape.
A sonogram is used during the procedure so that the doctor can ensure
that he is putting the needle in exactly the right location.  Once the needle reaches the blocked valve, a
balloon is inflated, allowing blood to flow again to the ventricle.  Once the blood is able to flow again, the
heart begins to grow.  And this, obviously,
makes a huge difference in a baby’s development and potential for a normal life
outside of the womb.

These, and other, in utero procedures are changing
the face of neo-natal medicine.  They are
helping families to make difficult decisions and they are decreasing the rates of
children being born with life threatening issues.

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