March 23, 2009

Doctors repair fetus’ heart defect

Surgeons at North Carolina's Duke University Medical Center say they have performed surgery on a fetus to repair a heart defect.

The heart was critically malformed and lacked proper channels for blood flow, The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer reported Sunday. In November, surgeons threaded a needle through the mother's abdomen into the womb, into the fetus' chest, and finally into the heart, to open a hole between the upper left and upper right chambers.

Before Nathan Brindle was born in January to Maegan Brindle, 19, he was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a deformation that strikes up to 4 in 10,000 babies. Without the surgery, Nathan had only about a 40 percent chance for survival, said Dr. Piers Barker, who treated Maegan and Nathan Brindle.

The initial surgery was set just before Thanksgiving. Nathan was scheduled to be born by Caesarian section Jan. 5, and minutes after his birth a team of pediatric cardiologists performed the second surgery to punch another hole between his left and right atria.

Nathan went home Feb. 25 after undergoing more surgeries to repair his heart.

In no way did we plan this as an experiment, Barker said. We knew this was the only thing we could offer that would help him. But this does help advance the care we can offer the next child, and helps us to better understand all the things we can do to help save a child like Nathan.