Originally Released: March 3, 1997
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A newborn baby boy, Dikhara Elijah Holloway, is alive thanks to a procedure performed in his mother's womb during the 16th week of pregnancy at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The surgical procedure was performed to reverse his heart failure caused by an accumulation of fluid in his chest.
Dionne McDonald, 26, was 15 weeks pregnant when an ultrasound test during a routine doctor's visit revealed the fetus' chest was filled with fluid, pushing the heart to one side of the chest and causing heart failure. Ms. McDonald was referred to Carl Weiner, M.D., chairman of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and director of the Center for Advanced Fetal Care at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
"It was very unusual for this problem to occur so early in pregnancy. Usually, it occurs around the 26th week," says Dr. Weiner. "We are not sure what caused the fluid to accumulate in Dikhara's chest, but if we had not intervened the baby would have died long before birth."
Ms. McDonald underwent amniocentesis to drain the fluid from the baby's chest cavity and to make sure the baby had no other abnormalities. The chest fluid rapidly returned and the heart failure worsened. Dr. Weiner drained the fluid a second time and, with the help of ultrasound, placed a tiny shunt in the baby's chest. The shunt is a tube that allowed fluid to continuously drain into the amniotic cavity, where it was absorbed.
The shunt worked for more than five months, preventing the fluid from reaccumulating. This allowed the baby's heart to remain in the center of his chest where it belonged.
The baby was born at full term, after a normal vaginal delivery, weighing 6 lbs., 9 oz., on February 26, at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dikhara is the first child for Ms. McDonald and the baby's father Carlton Holloway.
"Carlton and I are very pleased and grateful to Dr. Weiner and his staff for saving the life of our child. It is important for other women to know that they have other options when a problem like ours occurs early in pregnancy," Ms. McDonald says.
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