The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
‘Genius’ in-womb operation saves baby
A mother has praised medics who carried out life-saving surgery on her unborn baby and called the procedure “genius”.
Scans at 28 weeks revealed Ruth Elder’s baby had developed the condition hydrops fetalis – an abnormal accumulation of fluid around the heart, lungs and inside the abdomen of her unborn child.
An initial attempt to remove the fluid failed, so Professor Stephen Robson led a skilled team at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and performed the in-utero surgery, guided by ultrasound.
Mrs Elder, 32, from Chesterle-Street, County Durham, said: “It all happened really quickly so there wasn’t a great deal of time to worry about what the procedure would entail, I just wanted them to do whatever they needed to do to try to save our baby.”
It happened during the 29th week of pregnancy when Professor Robson placed a chest shunt into her abdomen, through the wall of the womb and into the baby’s chest wall to remove fluid from around the lungs.
Mrs Elder, married to Ross and also mother of three-yearold Henry, only had a local anaesthetic.
The professor said the shunt was the only option as the baby was so ill and without it her chances of survival were low.
He said: “There aren’t a large number of fetal abnormalities that you can treat in the womb, but this option is sometimes available and intervention can be very effective.
“The intention with Ruth’s surgery was to place a shunt in both sides of the baby’s chest but because of the position of the baby in the womb we were only able to access the right side.”
The operation was a success and Ruth gave birth to Harriet via a caesarean section.