Baby undergoes historic brain surgery in the womb

Doctors from Boston Children's Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital have successfully performed an in-utero surgery to repair a malformation in the brain of a fetus. The surgery repaired the vein of what’s known as a Galen malformation, which can cause neurologic and heart complications, including heart failure, severe brain injury, and death soon after birth. The surgery was performed on a 34-week fetus with remarkable results, and since birth, the baby girl has required no medication to treat heart failure and no further surgery. Repeated echocardiograms showed marked improvement in heart function, and a brain MRI showed no injury and a normal neurologic exam. The vein of Galen malformation is an anomaly where the arteries directly connect to veins rather than to capillaries that are necessary to slow blood flow and deliver oxygen to surrounding brain tissue. Currently, the treatment for babies born with the condition involves a catheter inserted into the arteries in an attempt to close the malformation, but some babies are born too sick to have the operation. The fetal surgery is trying to help those babies who cannot be treated with the current postnatal approach. This is believed to be the first in-utero surgery aimed at the cerebrovascular system. If the study shows success in the other patients too, the technique could be rolled out to other centers.


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