By Dave Andrusko
We’ve carried many stories of fetal surgery in which surgeons most typically correct spina bifida or remove lung tumors.
But a report that came out recently in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology documented a medical first. Three years ago surgeons at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia [CHOP] opened up Katie Rice’s uterus, removed a fast-growing tumor that was pressing on her 24-week unborn baby’s heart, and then sewed it up to continue the pregnancy.
Tucker Roussin is now a healthy, happy three-year-old.
But not until undergoing a perilous journey which at one point might have resulted in an abortion, according to Philly.com.
It started when Rice, already the mother of one, came in for a 20 week ultrasound. Happily, she learned her child was a boy. Unhappily, “The tech left the room and the doctor came in and did a scan and then another doctor came in and did a scan, and they weren’t really saying much,” Rice told CBS News.
“All together, three doctors came in and did scans and then they told us they saw a mass on his heart and they weren’t really sure what it was,” Rice said.
Philly.com’s Tom Avril added that they told Rice and her partner Mike Roussin, Justin “probably would not survive. Rice’s own health was at risk, and she might have to terminate the pregnancy.”
The very rare tumor forms in the sac around the heart. The condition is lethal if left untreated. Draining the fluid and waiting until the child is born to remove the tumor “carries serious risks, and the child might not survive.”
They were then told there were experts at CHOP who might be able to help. Surgeons there saw how fast the tumor was growing and “knew the fetus would not have survived if we hadn’t operated,” Dr. Jack Rychik told CBS News.
A multidisciplinary team –including experts from cardiology, surgery, imaging and obstetrics – performed the three-hour surgery just a few weeks after the intrapericardial teratoma was first discovered.
The operation was a success but everyone anxiously waited to see what would happen over the course of the remainder of the pregnancy. (Rice stayed at a nearby hotel in case there was an emergency.)
Tucker Roussin was born on May 9, 2013.
“Now 3, he loves monster trucks, sandboxes, riding his bike, and water parks,” Avil wrote.
“Look at me now!” he says in a family video.
The right side of his heart is a bit smaller than average, a residual effect of the tumor, but the doctors say he is perfectly healthy.
“He is full of energy,” his mother said. “He is a typical boy.”
Except that he has a scar on his chest, which he will happily show anyone, on request.