First Brain Surgery Inside Womb Performed

Pregnant woman's belly closeup with a baby inside. A conceptual motherhood image. | Image by zffoto, Shutterstock

For the first time in the United States, brain surgery was performed on a baby still inside the womb.

Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital performed surgery on a 34-week-old fetus that was still inside its mother’s womb.

The surgery was to treat the vein of Galen malformation, which is a “rare prenatal condition in which arteries bringing high-flow, high-pressure blood to the brain from the heart connect directly with one of the main collecting veins deep at the base of the brain, rather than to capillaries that are necessary to slow blood flow and deliver oxygen to surrounding brain tissue,” according to a press release from the American Heart Association (AHA).

The malformation is very serious, albeit rare, in children. The Boston Children’s Hospital states that one-third of children diagnosed do not make it out of the neonatal period, one-third suffer from “moderate to severe neurocognitive compromise despite expert treatment,” and the remaining third survive to adulthood without significant compromise.

The surgery was part of a clinical trial that is taking place at the hospital and is overseen by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Darren B. Orbach, a co-director of the Cerebrovascular Surgery & Interventions Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, said they are using ultrasound technology to perform the surgery.

In our ongoing clinical trial, we are using ultrasound-guided transuterine embolization to address the vein of Galen malformation before birth, and in our first treated case, we were thrilled to see that the aggressive decline usually seen after birth simply did not appear,” Orbach said, per the AHA.

Two days after the surgery, Kenyatta Coleman gave birth to her daughter, Denver Coleman. She said that holding her daughter for the first time was the most beautiful moment of her life.

“I heard her cry for the first time, and that just, I – I can’t even put into words how I felt at that moment. It was just, you know, the most beautiful moment being able to hold her, gaze up on her and then hear her cry,” said Coleman, per Yahoo.

Denver has continued to thrive even after the surgery.

“We are pleased to report that at six weeks, the infant is progressing remarkably well, on no medications, eating normally, gaining weight and is back home. There are no signs of any negative effects on the brain,” Orbach explained, per the AHA.

Coleman added that she and her husband, Derek, trusted in God for a miracle after they learned about the diagnosis.

“Derek and I are deeply rooted in our faith, and we prayed hard for this,” said Coleman, per CBS News. “You know, there was no doubt in our minds that God would perform a miracle and he did, on a public platform using a little girl before she was even born. She made her mark on the world.”

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