Fetal surgery is undoubtedly a complicated and delicate procedure, with both physical and ethical implications. It’s rarely even an option for treatment, only being done for a select number of conditions and only for pregnant women who meet certain criteria.
And still, doctors at two Boston hospitals stepped forward to repair a malformed blood vessel in a baby girl’s brain two days before she was born, succeeding in the first ever surgery of its kind.
The baby, named Denver Coleman, suffered from vein of Galen malformation (VOGM), a rare abnormality where blood vessels connect directly to veins rather than capillaries, affecting the blood vessels’ ability to carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the brain. The resulting surge of blood pressure can lead to major health issues like congestive heart failure, losing brain tissue or an enlarged head.
According to a statement from the American Heart Association (via Newsroom) VOGM affects an estimated 1 in 60,000 births. The current standard treatment happens after birth, where surgeons close off direct artery-to-vein connections in the brain to block the excess blood flow. However, this operation is highly risky and not always successful, not to mention that by the time the baby is born, severe brain damage might have already occurred, making it too late to prevent lifelong or even fatal damage. Conversely, the new procedure, which was detailed in the journal Stroke, uses an in-utero, ultrasound-guided utero surgery designed to reduce the aggressive blood flow
Just two days after the groundbreaking surgery was a success, Kenyatta Coleman, Denver’s mother, went into labor. What’s more, she got to go home only a few weeks later, needing no further medications or treatments. Now at six weeks, Denver is a happy, completely healthy newborn.
“I heard her cry for the first time and that just, I — I can’t even put into words how I felt at that moment,” Coleman told CNN. “It was just, you know, the most beautiful moment being able to hold her, gaze up on her and then hear her cry.”
Denver is the first of an estimated 20 babies who will undergo this innovative new treatment as part of a clinical trial. Hopefully, she is the first of many kiddos to make a miraculous recovery.
Watch her story below:
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