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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 7:46am

Rare Surgery Saves Baby

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 9:24am

Doctors operate on baby in womb to drain dangerous fluid.

Melissa Wussow knew something was wrong when she started losing weight during her 29th week of pregnancy.

As it turns out Melissa's baby needed a risky surgery that came with a 30-percent chance of survival.

"In a normal baby, there would be no black inside the chest," says Dr. Norman Davies, pointing out the danger on an ultra sound from last December when Wussow started having complications.

That black spot was a half cup of fluid that shouldn't have been there, it was pushing baby Ava's heart and lungs into the left side of her chest and keeping them from developing normally.

"When lungs are compressed, they don't develop as well as they should," adds Dr. Davies, who works at Mayo Clinic.

On December 29, 2010 doctors told Melissa they'd have to induce labor when she was just 29 weeks into her pregnancy.

"It was terrifying because at that point they weren't sure if she was even going to make it a day or two," recalls Wussow.

"They were just saying what condition she would be like when she came and what to expect," she adds.

But Dr. Davies decided to try a risky procedure that involved using a small shunt, a few inches long and inserting it into Ava's chest while she was still in her mother's womb in hopes of releasing the fluid.

The surgery ended up working and Ava was born on February 20, 2011.

Looking at her healthy baby today Melissa only has one thing on her mind, "she's a complete miracle, it's amazing."

Ava's condition is called fetal pleural efusion, it only happens once in every 30,000 pregnancies and now doctors at Mayo Clinic have created a prototype that serves as a model to help young doctors learn how to perform in-utero fetal pleural effusion surgery.

"As soon as the fluid got out, her lungs inflated again and developed perfectly normal."
 

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