Baby Born with Heart Outside Her Body Goes Home

heartAudrina Cardenas was born with ectopia cordis. Her heart was located outside of her body. She survived the surgery to put her heart back where it should be. Now, she is able to go home from the hospital and be with her family.

Ectopia cordis is a congenital condition. This means it is “present from birth”. It means that the baby’s heart was not in the right place. Instead, it was located outside of the chest wall (and outside of the body).

It is a very rare condition. Only 8 babies out of every million are born with it. The majority of these babies, 90%, are stillborn or die within the first three days of life.

Ashley Cardenas is the mother of Audrina Cardenas. She had an ultrasound done during the 16th week of her pregnancy. This was when it was first discovered that baby Audrina had ectopia cordis.

There is more than one option about what to do when a baby has ectopia cordis. Ashley chose to have the doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital try what could be described as a risky surgery in an attempt to put Audrina’s heart back where it should be. It was possible that she would not survive the surgery.

The surgery was preformed shortly after Audrina was born. It required a group of specialists in cardiovascular surgery, plastic surgery, general surgery, and more. Happily, Audrina survived.

At first, it was hoped that Audrina would be able to spend her first Christmas at home with her family. This did not happen. However, she has now been released from the hospital and can go home.

She must wear an external heart shield to protect her heart as she grows. It looks like a back brace, but is pink in color. Later, she will have to have another surgery so that a more permanent protective shield can be placed inside her chest.

Hospital spokeswoman Jenn Jacome had this to say:

She’s ready to go home. The physicians expect her to lead a pretty healthy and normal life. She’ll have some restraints in what she can do. Playing sports, that may be up in the air depending on what her cardiologists say.

Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr. is the surgeon-in-chief, chief of Congenital Heart Surgery and cardiac surgeon-in-charge at Texas Children’s Hospital. Five weeks after Audrina’s surgery, he wrote:

Audrina is a true fighter, and we are hopeful that she will continue to progress. I am also hopeful that Audrina’s case marks the beginning of our ability to care for more children diagnosed with ectopia cordis in the future.

Image by Daniel Zimmel on Flickr