In what surgeons have described as a “world first” procedure, a rare tumor has been removed from the mouth of a fetus while still in utero.
The expectant mother, Tammy Gonzalez, saw “a bubble” coming out of the baby’s mouth during routine ultrasound scans at 17 weeks. The mass, known as a neonatal teratoma, only affects one in four thousand diagnosed cases of the tumor.
However, ones that appear in the head and neck regions are only recorded in between 1 in 35,000 and 1 in 200,000 live births respectively, whereas most documented cases appear in the midline area — something that can more successfully be removed after the child has been delivered.
Usually, such a tumor is removed after birth. In this case, due to the tumor’s location, it was unlikely the child would survive. In the first case of its kind, surgeons at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida decided to try and cut out the tumor while the fetus was still in the womb.
Placing Gonzalez under local anaesthetic, a needle was pushed through the amniotic sac, and then a tiny laser was used to cut the tumor away from the fetus’s lips. The operation lasted just over an hour.
Five months later, the child was born without difficulties weighing 8lb 1oz and is now named Leyna. The only sign of her potentially life-saving operation is a small scar on her mouth.
This type of tumor is rare enough that the doctors in Florida had only seen one case in twenty years. Gonzalez told a press conference:
“When they finally severed the whole thing off and I could see it floating down, it was like this huge weight had been lifted off me and I could finally see her face.”
The operation and case study have been reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Image credit: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.