First Ever Surgery to Remove Tumor Saves Unborn Child

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 19, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 19, 2005

Houston, TX ( — A surgery performed on an unborn child that is the first of its kind has saved the baby’s life. Just three weeks before his due date, a tumor took over two-thirds of his chest, cramping his lungs so much that they would not have been able to expand after his birth and his stomach would fill with fluid as his heart failed.

But Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye was able to perform a surgery on Garrett Jorgensen, who is now three weeks old that saved his life.

Olutoye, a pediatric surgeon known affectionately as "Dr. O" at the Texas Center for Fetal Surgery, performed the surgery on July 29 when Jorgensen was seven pounds. Garrett’s mother Ellen was sedated and two teams of doctors separately monitored both mother and child during it.

During the procedure, doctors delivered Garrett’s head and right arm so they could gain access to his chest.

"While still attached to the mom, still getting oxygen through the placenta, we were then able to operate on this mass," Olutoye said about trying to remove the tumor.

Doctors pulled the mass outside of Garrett’s lungs, according to an Associated Press report, so he would have enough room to breathe. He was then separated form his mother and taken to another room to complete the surgery.

"It was a pretty substantial endeavor," Olutoye told AP from Texas Children’s Hospital where Garrett is being monitored. "This is a very new tumor that we do not understand the biology, so we are going to be following Garrett for a very, very long time to see how that plays out."

The Houston surgery center for unborn children opened last year and is similar to others located in San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia.

"It is just incredible to think doctors can do that," Ellen Jorgensen told AP of the surgery which saved her son’s life.

"We didn’t do it the easy way the first time, definitely not. But once you have been pregnant all this time — you have done everything that you are supposed to and find out, ‘Oh, well he might not make it,’ — you have got to do what you can."