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February 10, 2022/Daily Health Stories

Baby Undergoes Life-Saving Heart Surgery While in Womb (PKG)

A family is grateful after their son survived a rare and complex heart surgery while he was still in the womb. Doctors explain the extraordinary steps taken to make it all possible.

Baby Undergoes Life-Saving Heart Surgery While in Womb

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CLEVELAND – The last year has been an emotional rollercoaster for Samantha Custer and her husband Dave.

They found out during an ultrasound at 25 weeks pregnant that their son, Rylan, would need life-saving surgery.

“They had the doctor come in and tell me that they found the mass on the heart,” Samantha recalled.

She and Dave were in shock, everything up until that point had been fine.

“What we saw was a very large tumor, and this tumor was sitting exactly in the wrong area, where it was squishing the left side of the heart,” explained Darrell Cass, MD, Director of the Fetal Surgery and Fetal Care Center at Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Cass said given the seriousness of the condition, they needed to act fast.

“We felt probably the best treatment, if we were going to do anything, would be to try open fetal resection of this tumor,” he said.

Dr. Cass along with a team of surgeons quickly formulated a plan, and a few days later they were prepping Samantha for surgery.

“I was able to examine and get into a very nice plane of dissection, as we call it in surgical terms, and I was able to literally enucleate the entire tumor and remove it,” said Hani Najm, MD, Chair of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

“Once the tumor was off, it was amazing. Basically, the left atrium in the heart opened up and you could see blood flow change,” added Dr. Cass.

Rylan was then carefully placed back in the uterus.

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life,” said Samantha, who gave birth to Rylan via C-section ten weeks later.

The family is now back at home and doing well, grateful to the doctors for making it all possible.

“He’s a little miracle,” said Dave.

According to Dr. Cass, Cleveland Clinic is the second academic medical center in the world to have performed this fetal surgery successfully with continued pregnancy and delivery.

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