Doctors celebrated the success of a pioneer surgery this week that saved an unborn baby girl’s life – and potentially could save thousands more.
Yahoo News reports baby Denver underwent the first successful fetal brain surgery in March at Boston Children’s Hospital, and now is thriving at home with her Louisiana family.
Dr. Darren B. Orbach, who oversaw the surgery, said they have been thrilled by Denver’s progress thus far.
“We are pleased to report that at six weeks, the infant is progressing remarkably well, on no medications, eating normally, gaining weight and is back home. There are no signs of any negative effects on the brain,” Orbach said in a statement.
At 30 weeks of pregnancy, Denver was diagnosed with a rare and sometimes fatal brain abnormality called vein of Galen malformation. The blood vessel condition leads to bursts of high blood pressure, potentially causing heart failure and other life-threatening problems, according to a press release from the American Heart Association. It affects about one in 60,000 unborn babies.
Four weeks after the diagnosis, Denver and her mother underwent experimental surgery as part of a clinical trial at the Boston Children’s Hospital. According to Yahoo News: “… doctors used ultrasound imaging to guide a needle through the uterus of the mother and into a vein in the back of the fetus’s head. A catheter in the needle was then used to insert tiny coils to decrease blood flow in the vein.”
Two days later, Denver was born on March 17 weighing 4 pounds, 1 ounce, according to CNN.
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“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,” her mother, Kenyatta Coleman, told CNN.
Currently, the treatment for the disorder is not very good, and many babies die. According to the American Heart Association, the treatment occurs after the baby is born by using a catheter to close off the connection between the artery and vein to stop too much blood from flowing between the heart and brain. But the treatment is high risk and it does not always work. Sometimes, babies with vein of Galen malformation already have suffered brain damage in the womb, according to the AHA.
The news of Denver’s success provides hope that more babies’ lives could be saved through the new surgical procedure.
News of the success broke Thursday in “Stroke,” a journal of the American Heart Association. Orbach said they hope the on-going trial will result in a new, life-saving treatment for babies with vein of Galen malformation.
“This approach has the potential to mark a paradigm shift in managing vein of Galen malformation where we repair the malformation prior to birth and head off the heart failure before it occurs, rather than trying to reverse it after birth,” he said. “This may markedly reduce the risk of long-term brain damage, disability or death among these infants.”