It is absolutely remarkable what technology and science can do to help improve people’s health. In Florida, doctors were able to remove a large tumor from a baby that was still inside her mother’s womb. Today, the baby girl is 20 months old, and is doing great!
For most mothers, the images that come from an ultrasound are a delight to see. It isn’t the same quality as a photograph would be, but, it is a way to be able to see your child before she is born. Unfortunately, mother Tammy Gonzalez saw something scary in the ultrasound of her daughter, Leyna. There was a large mass near her daughter’s mouth, and none of the doctors could immediately tell her what, exactly, it was.
At the time, Tammy was seventeen weeks pregnant. More tests confirmed that the mass was a teratoma. It was about the size of a peach!
According to the online Medical Dictionary, a teratoma is “a type of germ cell tumor that may contain several different types of tissue and sometimes mature elements such as hair, muscle, and bone.” A teratoma could be benign or malignant. The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia says that a malignant teratoma is a type of cancer. The teratoma that was attached to Leyna’s face was benign.
This tumor was a fetal oral teratoma. It is rare. It affects less than 1 in 100,000 pregnancies. Tammy was given a few options. The doctors could terminate the pregnancy. They could all wait for the baby to grow to a viable stage and hope that there would be a way to correct the problem at that time. If that choice was made, there was a chance that the baby would require several surgeries and could have facial deformities.
Dr. Ruben Quintero, at the University of Miami, had another idea. He ended up preforming an operation that had never been done before. Mother Tammy Gonzales was given a local anesthetic. A needle was inserted through the amniotic sac. A laser was used to cut the tumor away from little Leyna’s mouth. The operation took more than an hour. This was the first time that this sort of operation had ever been attempted.
Today, Leyna Gonzales is 20 months old. She is happy and healthy. No one would ever guess that she once had a tumor the size of a peach attached to her mouth. There is potential that this type of surgery could help other babies who require surgery while they are still in utero.
Image by Richard North on Flickr