A team of doctors in Spain have successfully performed the world’s first prenatal lung surgery on a 26-week-old fetus with blocked bronchi.
The operation was carried out by a joint team of doctors from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and the Sant Joan de Deu Hospital on a baby girl with bronchial atresia, a rare congenital anomaly in which the connection between trachea and the lung is blocked.
“If the operation was not performed in womb the baby would die because she could not breathe after birth,” said director of maternal-fetal medicine department at Hospital Clinic Dr. Eduard Gratacos, adding that 90 percent of babies with the condition die after birth.
“Thanks to an ultrasound we detected the problem early. If we had not intervened, she would be dead,” said Julio Moreno, a neonatologist at the Hospital Joan de Deu.
During the 30-minute procedure performed in late 2010, doctors introduced an endoscopy through the fetus' mouth to repair the defected bronchi.
“It is an extremely delicate operation since it is carried out near the heart on tissues as thin as cigarette paper. But without this fetal therapy, the baby would not have survived,” Dr. Gratacos told reporters.
The baby named Alaitz was born at eight months and is in very good health condition 16 months after birth, said the doctors who unveiled their landmark work on Tuesday.
“She is completely normal,” said baby’s mother Monica Corominas. “She wakes up happy, she laughs if she is pleased, she cries if she is hungry.”