Lifewatch: Unborn surgery

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - A mother who is 24-weeks pregnant is recovering from surgery to repair her baby's lungs.

Doctors were able to insert a device into the baby's lungs that will allow fluid to drain.

Operating on unborn babies is notoriously difficult and only a few surgeons around the world have tried it.  But now, more and more lives are saved before they even begin.

After surgery, Mom was able to look at her daughter's healthy lungs for the first time through an ultra sound.  A rare condition found in 1 in 15,000 unborn babies now seems less threatening.

"There's a large collection of fluid in the chest cavity surrounding the lung, and there was so much fluid built up that we worried that it would compress the lungs and not allow the lungs to grow properly so that when the baby was born the lungs wouldn't function properly," said Dr. Garrett Lam.

Doctors inserted a tube into the baby's lungs by going through Mom's belly and just under the baby's shoulder.

The tube's function is to drain the excess fluids in her chest cavity.  Doctors say this gives the baby the best chance of a healthy delivery.

"It will stay in there throughout the entire pregnancy until the baby is born," said Dr. William Clewell.

By then, doctors said the problem of fluid filling in the lungs may have repaired itself.

Mom is relieve the surgery prevented her baby's condition from being fatal.

The procedure is getting lots of praise from pro-life groups.  They say it may prevent expectant mothers from terminating their pregnancies.