In a groundbreaking medical achievement, doctors (surgeons) have successfully performed brain surgery on a fetus while it was still in the mother’s womb.
The surgery which was carried out at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts was required to fix a blood vessel problem that can be fatal in the brain of a 34-week-old foetus.
The in-utero surgery operations are performed before the baby was born, guided by ultrasound procedures. Although this procedure has been used for other conditions, this is the first time it will be done for this particular condition, a rare brain condition.
The condition, known as Vein of Galen Malformation (VOGM) occurs when a blood vessel from the brain to the heart does not develop correctly as such the arteries in the brain connect directly with veins, instead of connecting with capillaries, which help slow blood flow.
Talking about their experience after the surgery, Dr. Darren Orbach, a paediatric neuroradiologist, said: “The best part was when she was born, just seeing her in the NICU be fine and, you know, we would all sort of look at each other and pinch ourselves.”
“We were not sure when it was OK to celebrate. So that was really the moment when we knew that all was going to be great.”
If the surgery had not been done, there could have been “tremendous brain injuries and immediate heart failure after birth”. According to Dr. Orbach; “50 to 60 percent of all babies with this condition will get very sick immediately. And for those, it looks like there’s about a 40 percent mortality.”
The baby, Denver Coleman was born on March 17 and weighed 4 pounds and 1 ounce.
Her parents, Derek and Kenyatta Coleman of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said the problem was picked up in an ultrasound at 30 weeks.
The doctors had told them the baby had an enlarged heart.
The operation which was part of a clinical trial approved by the US Food and Drug Administration happened in March, although the details were published in the peer-reviewed journal Stoke on Thursday, May 5, 2023.
The journal gave a detailed description of the process that doctors took to repair a malformed blood vessel in the fetus’s brain.
This remarkable milestone marks the first time such a procedure has been conducted, paving the way for potential life-saving interventions for unborn babies in the future.
Written By: Blessing Enechojo Abu