On February 22, 2017, a preborn baby boy became the first person in Ohio to receive heart surgery while still in the womb. His mother, Stephanie Hartman, learned during pregnancy that her son had hypoplastic left-heart syndrome along with a leaky mitral valve.
While doctors usually wait until after birth to perform surgery for hypoplastic left-heat syndrome, the addition of the faulty mitral valve diagnosis meant that the baby would have more difficulty after birth. According to Dr. Aimee Armstrong of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, only 10 percent of babies with similar conditions live beyond six months of age. In utero surgery was his best chance.
“We wanted to do anything we could to help him,” Hartman told The Columbus Dispatch. “Knowing how bad it was, I thought it pretty much was our only hope.”
At 29-weeks gestation, heart surgery was scheduled at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. The baby was given anesthesia, and mom was given an epidural. A team of surgeons inserted a tiny balloon into the baby’s aortic valve to open it up. It enabled the left ventricle to pump blood and helped to decrease the leak in the mitral valve. It only took five minutes for the doctors to be inside the baby’s heart and the surgery was successful. The baby boy no longer had signs of heart failure.
“There’s still a long road ahead,” Armstrong told The Columbus Dispatch. “But we hope that this gives him a better chance at surviving and being healthy and being more stable at birth.”