Balloon dilation: How AIIMS-Delhi doctors conducted heart surgery on fetus
This surgical procedure is nothing short of a miracle! On March 14, a team of doctors at AIIMS Delhi performed heart surgery on a baby that was yet to be born and was still inside its mother's womb. Called balloon dilation, this process was finished in 90 seconds and as per reports, both the fetus and mother are safe. Here's more about this procedure.
Here's what our expert says
- Intrauterine intra-fetal surgery is a recent advance in treating congenital defects before the baby is born; some of these defects may not be compatible with life if left untreated.
- However, intrauterine intra-fetal surgery is a high-risk procedure with risks to both mother and the unborn fetus and is undertaken under the supervision of a team of doctors from multiple specialties.
Let's understand what balloon dilation is
According to Stanford Healthcare, balloon dilation is "a cardiac catheterization procedure in which a small, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin and guided to the inside of the heart." This tube has a deflated balloon on its tip which inflates to open the area when it is placed in the narrow valve. It's among the riskiest surgeries ever.
The process takes 20-30 minutes and is usually safe
This surgery which is used to unclog blocked arteries in the heart usually takes not more than 20 to 30 minutes. The patient going under the knife is sedated and once they fall asleep, the process of placing the balloon in the organ begins. Although extremely challenging, it is generally safe and requires speedy arrangements owing to its complications.
How was the fetus' surgery conducted?
"Everything is done under all ultrasound guidance," shared a senior doctor with PTI. "We placed a needle through the mother's abdomen into the baby's heart. Using a balloon catheter, we opened the obstructed valve to improve blood flow," he explained. "It has to be done very quickly because you're going to puncture the major heart chamber. It has to be quick," he added.
The whole procedure was done only in 90 seconds: Doctors
The senior doctor from Cardiothoracic Sciences Centre at AIIMS further told PTI, "The whole procedure had to be done very swiftly. It was very challenging. We managed to do it in around one-and-half minutes." "With this reshaping procedure, hopefully, the fetus' heart will develop better. Both the fetus and the mother are stable and are being monitored closely," he was quoted saying.
How common is it to perform surgeries in the womb?
"Some types of serious heart diseases can be diagnosed while the baby is in the mother's womb. Sometimes, treating them in the womb may improve the outlook for the baby after birth and lead to near-normal development," shared the team of doctors in the same interview. Doctors have also advanced to perform many other painstaking surgeries with the baby still inside the womb.
2022: Doctor took fetus out, operated, and put it back
Another rare case of fetal surgery happened in 2022 when the Florida-based 28-year-old Jacqueline Schumer's unborn baby developed a birth defect on its spine called Myelomeningocele. To save its life, the doctors performed an extremely delicate surgery by taking her womb out, performing the operation, and then putting it back in her body to continue with the final trimester of pregnancy!