While a baby was still attached via the umbilical cord, Children's Hospital Colorado (Children's Colorado) doctors attached a pacemaker to the baby's heart. The patient, a 36-week fetus, who suffered from complete atrioventricular block (CAVB) and cardiac dysfunction, was at high risk of dying before delivery. The temporary pacemaker stabilized the baby’s dangerously low and irregular heart rate and ensured enough blood flow from the heart to the rest of its body for delivery. While still attached to its mother via the umbilical cord, the baby received a temporary pacemaker, which "In essence, this procedure gave the fetus the gift of time," said Bettina Cuneo, MD, fetal cardiologist. "Not only were we able to expose the heart and attach the pacing leads to make the heart rate faster, we were able to make sure the heart was functioning effectively before cutting the umbilical cord."
‘Doctors complete first-ever EXIT (Ex Utero Intrapartum Treatment) to ventricular pacing procedure. This approach significantly lowers mortality in preterm infants.’A team of experts led by Dr. Cuneo and Henry Galan, MD, maternal fetal medicine at the hospital's Colorado Fetal Care Center, worked with a multi-disciplinary team including Max Mitchell, MD, cardiothoracic surgery, to perform the procedure, and the infant was successfully delivered. Their research was recently published in Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy.
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The risk of perinatal death in the first day of life is six-to-eleven times higher if a fetus:
Develops CAVB at less than 20 weeks of gestation
Has a fetal heart rate less than 55 beats per minute
Develops heart failure