Doctors at a Florida hospital announced this week that they had successfully removed an extremely rare tumor from the mouth of a 17-week-old fetus.
According to BBC News reports published Friday, surgeons at the Jackson Memorial Hospital revealed that they removed an oral teratoma from Leyna Gonzalez while she was still in her mother Tammy’s womb five months prior to her October 2010 birth.
The doctors added that the teratoma was so rare that it had only been seen once in 20 years at the medical facility. They used a local anesthetic, pushed through the protective amniotic sac around the fetus, and then used a laser to cut the tumor from the child’s lips, the British news organization added.
The entire operation took slightly more than an hour to complete.
“They are her saviors. She wouldn’t be here without them,” 39-year-old Tammy Gonzalez said, according to Richard Luscombe of the Guardian. “You can imagine what goes through your head. ‘What is this?’ Nobody could really give me an answer because it’s so rare.”
“If she was ultimately delivered alive, there was no guarantee that she would be normal, she’d have a tracheotomy, numerous surgeries, she’d have deformities,” she added. “I thought: ‘There has to be a way to save her.’ We started doing research, a lot of heartache and emotional distress. I asked my gynecologist if there’s another way, if somebody could do surgery on her while she’s inside.”
Luscombe said that the Gonzalez family was referred to Dr. Ruben Quintero, a trailblazer in fetal medicine at the University of Miami. Dr. Quintero told Tammy that no one had ever attempted to remove an oral teratoma in utero, but added that he was willing to attempt the surgery.
The procedure was completed using an ultrasound-guided endoscope, and when Leyna was born five months later, the only remnant of the operation was a tiny scar on her mouth, the Guardian reporter added.
“It was a decisive moment. We went ahead and cut the stem, and sure enough the tumor fell right out,” Quintero, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, said of the operation, according to Katie Moisse of ABC News. He added that Mrs. Gonzalez was “grateful that we offered her this chance“¦ But we couldn’t have offered her the chance if she hadn’t had the courage.”
20-month-old Leyna, who Tammy called her “little miracle child,” is doing “perfectly fine,” according to her mother.