At the children's hospital Boston, a surgery was conducted on a baby inside the womb. The baby, Grace, underwent the world's first heart stent procedure in the womb. She was discharged on Friday after the successful completion of the surgery.
The baby was diagnosed with a heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) inside the womb. When she was 30 weeks the doctors placed a stent in the developing fetus on November 7, 2005.
She was born on January 10 and the doctors performed the first part of the definitive three-stage corrective operation on January 13. The physicians said that the stent was very helpful as it protected the baby's lungs and helped the current operation to go smoothly.
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is the most common heart disease that is the cause of death of the baby during their first week of life. In this complicated disease the left side of the heart is improperly developed. Hence it is very small and can accept very little blood.
Usually there is a small hole, which allows the blood to flow from the left side to the right before leaving the heart. But in this case there was absence of a hole and hence the blood accumulated in the left side of the heart and went to the lungs. This in the future will cause a lot of problems.
Dr. James Lock, from the Children's Hospital Boston, and colleagues planned to reconstruct the connection between the left and right sides of Grace's heart. This was achieved by placing a stent. This stent acted like a small blood vessel, which carried the blood from the left side to the right side of the heart.
This was possible with the help of the ultrasound guidance. The doctors put a small catheter into the mother's uterus and then reached into the fetal heart where two holes were created in the wall between the left and right sides of the heart. The stent was then placed in-between the two holes.
At birth, Grace was breathing normally and did not raise the necessity to be put on a ventilator. Grace then recovered smoothly without any major complication associated with neither the disease nor the surgery. The second stage of the operation will occur when she is 4 to 6 months of age and the third and final stage is usually performed between 1 and 3 years of age.