The laser life-saver: Surgeons save unborn baby by removing mouth tumour while she is still in the WOMB
Ultrasound appeared to show a bubble emerging from foetus' mouth – it was a rare tumour the size of a matchboxSurgeons removed the life-threatening mass with a laser inside the womb
18:58 GMT, 22 June 2012
Tammy and Alain Gonzalez with their baby after the pioneering procedure saved her life
Surgeons saved the life of a baby before she was born by removing a tumour from her mouth while she was still in the womb.
In a world-first operation, doctors at the University of Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida, operated on Tammy Gonzalez while she was still awake carefully detaching the mass with a laser.
'I could see it floating down', Mrs Gonzalez told a press conference yesterday.
'It was like this huge weight had been lifted off. It just floated away and I could finally see her face.'
The operation was carried out in May
2010, but the story has only just emerged because experts had to wait
for their report to be published in the American Journal of Obstetrics
Now the little girl at the centre of the case, Leyna Mykaella, is an energetic toddler with brown ringlets.
sat with Dr Ruben Quintero and Dr Efitichia Kontopoulos while they
detailed her case, oblivious to the fact she owes them her life.
Mrs Gonzalez, 39, went for a routine scan midway through her pregnancy when she was presented with an unnerving image.
unborn daughter seemed to be blowing a bubble from her mouth, which was
around the size of a matchbox. The ‘bubble’ was actually an oral
teratoma, a large tumour growing from the foetus’s mouth. The condition only affects one in 100,000 pregnancies.
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An ultrasound taken on 24th May 2010 revealed a bubble like mass protruding from Leyna's mouth
Dr Quintero and Dr Kontopoulos with Leyna Mykaella Gonzalez, who is now 20 months-old
The doctors were able to totally remove the tumour from the child's mouth
Doctors told Tammy there was little chance her daughter would survive birth – and if she did, she would require an immediate tracheotomy to breathe and have to endure many surgeries thereafter. She was told she should consider a termination.
Devastated, Tammy and her husband Alain sought out Dr Quintero, who is a pioneer in foetal medicine and has treated many high-risk conditions in babies still in the womb.
'The concern with these tumours is they can grow very rapidly,' Dr Quintero said.
'They can cause bleeding, which can cause the death of the baby.'
Dr Quintero explained the risks to the couple and in May 2010 Quintero and Kontopoulos operated on Leyna in utero.
Using an endoscope guided by ultrasound, their team removed the mass with a laser and cleared the baby’s mouth. Tammy, who was by now 20 weeks pregnant, remained awake and only under local anesthesia for the procedure, which lasted just over an hour.
Five months later, on October 1, 2010, Leyna Mykaella Gonzalez was born healthy weighing 8lbs 1oz. A tiny scar near the corner of her mouth is the only evidence of her surgery.
'We think the world of the doctors,' Mrs Gonzalez said.
'They are our saviors. Without them, she wouldn’t be here.'