Unborn Baby Removed From Mother’s Womb for Heart Surgery, Then Put Back In

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 27, 2021   |   5:53PM   |   Cleveland, Ohio

Rylan Harrison Drinnon is alive today because doctors believed that he was a valuable human being while he was still in the womb.

In May, a team of surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio performed a complex, three-hour surgery to remove a tumor from Rylan’s heart while he was still in the womb. His condition is so rare that doctors believe he is only the second person in the world to successfully undergo the surgery.

Cleveland.com reports Rylan was born on July 13 to Sam and Dave Drinnon, of Pittsburgh, approximately 10 weeks after he and his mother underwent the surgery.

This week, the hospital announced the baby boy’s success story in a news release, noting that both mother and baby are doing well.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the baby boy developed a rare, potentially fatal heart condition in the womb. Intrapericardial teratoma with fetal hydrops evolves into fetal heart failure if not treated, and Dr. Darrell Cass said there is little medical research about it.

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“Only one previous incidence of continued pregnancy and delivery after fetal intrapericardial teratoma resection is documented in the world’s medical literature,” said Cass, director of the Cleveland Clinic Fetal Surgery and Fetal Care Center. “As far as we know, Cleveland Clinic is the second academic medical center in the world to have performed this fetal surgery successfully with continued pregnancy and delivery.”

Rylan had a tumor that was compressing the left side of his heart, blocking circulation and causing fluid to build up around his heart and other organs, the doctor explained.

“This tumor was growing rapidly in the exact wrong spot,” Cass said. “… and we started seeing signs that the cardiac function was deteriorating. We needed to act quickly and decisively to rescue the fetus.”

In May, at 26 weeks of pregnancy, Rylan and Sam underwent a 3 1/2-hour surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, according go the hospital.

Surgeons made an incision into Sam’s womb and partially removed Rylan from her uterus. Then, they opened up Rylan’s chest and removed the tumor from his heart while it was beating. Afterward, they placed him back inside the womb and closed the incisions, allowing him to grow another 10 weeks in his mother’s womb before he was born.

The team of doctors said neither Rylan nor his mother suffered any complications, and they were pleased with their recovery.

“I am very proud of our talented congenital heart surgery and fetal surgery teams that integrated seamlessly to successfully perform a complex lifesaving fetal surgery,” Cass said.

Dr. Hani Najm, a heart surgeon who helped with the surgery, said they hope the Drinnons’ story will give other families hope.

“Such an innovative fetal surgery provides hope to other families who may receive a similar devastating diagnosis,” said Najm, chair of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “Clinical teams from Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Children’s are consistently collaborating and remain dedicated to innovation and teamwork to ensure our patients of all ages can feel safe when entrusting their care to us.”

Rylan’s story highlights the value of unborn babies by showing the incredible lengths that society will go to save a life.