In a pioneering operation, more than 50 healthcare workers have saved the life of a child still inside its mother’s womb.
The one-of-a-kind procedure was recently carried out with resounding success at the Maternal and Child Hospital in Malaga, southern Spain.
More than 50 professionals from 10 different services worked together to perform the procedure on the 36-week-old foetus following a fortnight-long prep period.
Medics had decided to intervene pre-birth after a scan revealed that the unborn baby’s airway was potentially obstructed.
If not treated within the first moments of its life, the tracheal obstruction could have led to its death just moments after delivery.
Anaesthetist David Mendez told local media: “We had to use drugs that crossed the placental barrier to anaesthetise the newborn, and uterine relaxation was necessary to prevent placental abruption.”
And Head of Otorhinolaryngology Francisco Hernandez said: “There were several handicaps: the small size of the surgical field, performing it in a sitting position in the mother’s uterus, and the limited time available – only three minutes.”
He added: “The biggest problem was that the anomaly of the airway and the level of involvement of the trachea prevented the tracheotomy from being performed.”
This meant the medical team had to use a technique called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation to oxygenate the blood outside the body.
In what is believed to be a world first, it was carried out without removing the baby from the womb.
The operation was declared a resounding success when the baby was delivered as planned and intubated.
Both mother and newborn were discharged from the hospital five days later.
The mother told local media: “Weeks earlier I had been in denial, I didn’t want to touch my baby’s clothes, nor prepare my hospital bag, which future mums do so enthusiastically. It terrified me.
“Two weeks before, my gynaecologist, Dr Narbona, told me all available means would be deployed to ensure that my baby and I left the operating room alive that day.
“I had never imagined that so many professionals would turn to me.”