In the first-of-its-kind brain surgery, doctors saved a baby in the womb from a deadly genetic disorder. Now, Derek and Kenyatta Coleman have a healthy baby girl. Image: Courtesy Coleman familyHealth USA
First-of-Its-Kind Brain Surgery, Performed in… the Womb!
A team of doctors from the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, the United States, successfully performed brain surgery on a baby while still in the womb, thus saving her life from a potentially deadly genetic disorder.
“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,” states lead study author Darren B. Orbach, MD, Ph.D., co-director of the Cerebrovascular Surgery & Interventions Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School.
Baby Denver Coleman was diagnosed with a vein of Galen malformation – or VOGM – at 30 weeks. At 34 weeks and 2 days gestational age, the surgery was performed by cutting into the womb and then the skull of the baby to operate on her developing brain. An ultrasound was used to locate the misshapen artery. VOGM is a rare blood vessel abnormality that causes high-pressure blood to rush to the head due to arteries connected to veins instead of capillaries – which slows blood flow, preventing the heart from working overtime and causing congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. During the neonatal period – or first four weeks of life – of children born with VOGM, one-third do not survive, one-third suffer moderate to severe neurocognitive compromise despite treatment, and one-third survive to adulthood without “significant compromise,” as per the Boston Children’s Hospital. Denver was born two days after the surgery, showing no birth defects and limited complications. And three weeks after birth, MRI scans show no signs of abnormal blood flow to the brain.