AUSTRALIAN surgeons saved the leg of an unborn baby girl by operating when her mother was just 22 weeks pregnant, in what may be the earliest in-utero surgery of its kind in the world.
Baby Leah had a rare condition, amniotic band
syndrome, in which stray bands of tissue wrap themselves around the developing foetus’s limbs or digits, in this case both her legs, and cut off blood flow.
Her parents decided to go ahead with the operation after being told she faced the prospect of both her feet being amputated by the constricting bands as she grew within the womb.
A spokeswoman for Melbourne’s Monash Medical Centre said the surgery was believed to be a world first because doctors usually hold back on operating until the mother is 28 weeks pregnant to improve the baby’s chances of survival.
Doctors pierced the mother’s abdomen with a 0.08 inch thick telescopic needle to allow them to apply laser and electric current to cut the band above the baby’s left foot.
But the right leg was so badly affected, with the band having cut through to the bone, that surgeon Chris Kimber decided to leave the already swollen and infected foot alone.
At the time of the operation late last year, Leah measured six to eight inches. By the time her mother gave birth to her eight weeks later in January, she weighed three pounds nine ounces.
After the birth, doctors operated to save the gangrenous right leg and are confident she will have full function in the foot and be able to walk.
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