June 22, 2012
Doctors remove peach-sized tumour from unborn baby
By QMI Agency
In a medical first, doctors in Miami removed a potentially fatal tumour the size of a peach from a child's mouth while she was still in the womb.
Miami's Tammy Gonzalez was 17 weeks pregnant with her second child when she first discovered her baby was sick.
"At 17 weeks I went for a routine ultrasound and ... I see a bubble coming out of my daughter's mouth. And automatically, as you can imagine what goes through your head, I was like, 'What is this?' No one could really give me an answer because it's so rare and it hadn't been seen."
It was a fetal oral teratoma, a rare tumour that affects one in 100,000 pregnancies. The chances of survival aren't good. Gonzalez's options were to terminate the pregnancy, or have doctors try to remove the tumour after the baby is born. But the latter had a slim chance of working.
The tumour, her doctors explained, was growing very rapidly. It could weigh two pounds by the time she was ready to give birth. Most likely, she'd have severe fetal bleeding during labour and the child wouldn't make it.
"This baby was already kicking at 17 weeks and I was like, 'There has to be a way to save her.' So we started doing research and a lot of heartache and a lot of distress and I asked my gynecologist if there was another way — if somebody could do surgery on her while she was still inside in utero," she said.
Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos knew of one man who might be able to pull it off — a world-renowned University of Miami Jackson Memorial fetal surgeon named Dr. Ruben Quintero.
She arranged for Gonzalez and Quintero to meet.
Quintero told the expecting mother the procedure had never been done before and could be dangerous. But he was willing to give it a shot.
"I was like, 'Let's give it a chance.' At least this way I'm trying and doing something about it. And we have a success and this is the product and she's perfectly fine," she said at a news conference with 20-month-old Leyna squirming and bouncing on her lap. Her husband Alain and their eight-year-old boy were by her side. "She's perfectly normal, thank God."
Gonzalez was awake for the whole procedure, watching on a screen as Quintero and Kontopoulos sliced off the tumour with a laser.
"I could see it severed off and it floated down and it was like this weight lifted off me. It floated down and I could finally see her face and it was perfect," Gonzalez said.