Breakthrough in foetal surgery celebrated

Doctors laud parents and colleagues for bravery and tenacity

Tuesday, October 1 2013

Yesterday, families, medical specialists, nurses and other hospital personnel got together to celebrate the success of the five highly sophisticated in-utero pinhole surgical procedures performed at Netcare Parklands Hospital over the past fourteen months. While one family lives far away and could not make the trip to Umhlanga, four of the five babies whose lives were saved as a result of the operations were the picture of health and happiness as they and their parents joined in the celebrations.
The intrauterine procedures were varied and included shunt procedures into the chest and bladder cavities, laser therapy for twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and umbilical cord ligations. The first procedure, a pleuroamniotic shunt insertion, was used to treat chylothorax (fluid collection around the lungs) that could result in hydrops fetalis, which is an accumulation of fluids around the lungs, heart and abdomen leading to severely restricted lung development, cardiac failure and death.

Pic: These babies underwent surgery in-utero at Netcare Parklands Hospital and are now the picture of health. From left to right: Gershon and Hailey Muller (Baby Jadon Muller), Laven and Dainie Pillay (Baby Kaila Pillay), John Robert and Suzanne Clarke (Baby Timothy Clarke), Hayden and Tarryn Ford (Baby Joel Ford)

Speaking at the function, paediatric surgeon, Dr Samad Shaik, said, “This condition is usually associated with a very poor prognosis, however, we are now able to successfully treat it in the womb at a centre such as Netcare Parklands Hospital.”
Dr Shaik said performing procedures on a foetus is highly complex and requires a skilled, multidisciplinary team of specialist doctors and nurses working closely together. He acknowledged the role of everyone involved in the five procedures and thanked the management of Netcare Parklands Hospital for facilitating the operations.

Dr Ismail Bhorat, a foeto-maternal specialist, was responsible for the diagnosis and referral of the patients to Dr Shaik. Other members of the medical team included anaesthetists, Dr Mark van Staden and colleagues; obstetricians, Dr Desmond Sankar and Dr Carlos Hartmann; and paediatricians, Drs Jacob Roos and Thahir Mitha. “My colleagues provided unfaltering support in every single case. Each and every one of the babies who successfully underwent a procedure is nothing short of a little miracle and I think no one is more aware of this than they are,” said Dr Shaik.
According to James van Vught, general manager of Netcare Parklands Hospital, the experience gained by the team from these procedures, places them at the forefront of intrauterine surgery in the country. “Patients are now being referred to them from around the country,” he noted.
The first shunt procedure was done in July 2012 on Joel Hayden Ford, when his mother was 31 weeks pregnant with him. He was delivered “healthy and strong” via caesarean section at 38 weeks and recently celebrated his first birthday. Dr Shaik says as far as he knows, this was the first operation of its kind performed by a paediatric surgeon in South Africa. The cases only seemed to get more complex over time. Almost exactly a year later, baby Timothy John Hugh Clarke required a highly intricate double shunt procedure 38 weeks into his mother’s pregnancy. Timothy is now a happy, healthy boy of nine weeks.
Joel’s parents, Hayden and Tarryn Ford, say they are very grateful to the medical team who performed the lifesaving in-utero procedure, as their boy is such a “blessing” in their lives. “It is also good to know that Joel’s procedure was an important learning experience for the surgical team and paved the way for future procedures,” they indicated.
Van Vught describes the operations as an “important landmark” in the field of foetal medicine in South Africa. “The hospital is privileged to partner with such a courageous group of healthcare practitioners to make appropriate cutting-edge treatment available to mothers who are in need of in-utero surgery. This new unit gives hope to patients who previously had very little,” he concludes.

Issued by : Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcells Cryogenics
Contact : Martina Nicholson or Graeme Swinney or Clemmy Eccles
Telephone : (011) 469 3016
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