A five week old baby was born with her heart outside her body. This condition is one what frequently results in death. This time, doctors were able to preform surgery and save little Audrina Cardenas. It is unknown what her long term prognosis will be, but right now, she is doing well.
The technical name for the condition that Audrina was born with is Ectopia cordis. It is a congenital condition, which means that it is “present from birth” (or before birth). It means that the baby’s heart was not in the place where it was supposed to be located. Instead, it is outside of the chest wall, (and outside of the body).
Ectopia cordis is a very rare condition. Eight babies out of every million are born with it. About 90% of babies born with ectopia cordis are stillborn, or they die within the first three days of life. This is one of several serious heart conditions that a baby could be born with.
Ashley Cardenas is Audrina’s mother. When she was 16 weeks pregnant, doctors informed her that her baby had ectopic cordis. They let her know that the condition is very rare, and very serious. She was informed that the survival rate for babies whose hearts were located outside their bodies was very low. If the baby survives, there is no way to know, for certain, what that baby’s quality of life will be.
Ashley was presented with three options. One option was to terminate the pregnancy. There was the potential that the baby would not live long enough to be born, or would die shortly after birth.
Another option was to continue the pregnancy and have the doctors do “comfort care” at the time of the delivery. This means that the doctors would be especially careful in order to avoid doing anything that would cause the baby pain during the delivery. After being born, the baby would stay with her parents so they could spend as much time together as possible before the baby passed away.
The third option also was to continue the pregnancy and have “comfort care” given during the delivery. The parents would still be able to spend time with their baby. Within a few weeks of birth, the baby would undergo a surgery in the hopes that doctors would be able to repair the baby’s heart.
It was a high-risk surgery, and there was no guarantee that Audrina would survive it. On the other hand, there was a chance it would work. This was the option that Ashley chose.
At five weeks old, Audrina underwent surgery so doctors could put her heart back into the place it was supposed to be in. This involves opening the baby’s chest so the heart can be put inside and mobilizing the surrounding soft tissue to cover the heart itself.
Audrina survived. She is currently at an open ended stay at Texas Children’s Hospital, (where the surgery took place). There is no way to know, at this moment, what her future will be. Ashley is hoping her baby will be able to celebrate Christmas at home.
Image by Daniel Zimmel on Flickr