Pregnant patients who receive the diagnosis of congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH, now have access in Chicago to in-utero procedure that could greatly enhance the outcome for their baby.
In 2022 the fetal intervention experts at The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health at Lurie Children’s began performing a two-part procedure known as fetal endoluminal tracheal occlusion, or FETO, that helps manage the life-threatening condition in utero. The Chicago Institute is the first comprehensive fetal center in Illinois to perform this procedure.
At the same time, the Institute recently marked the noteworthy milestone of completing 200 fetal surgeries.
“Our institute’s incredible progress in offering the FETO procedure and marking 200 fetal surgeries is a reflection of our expertise and patient-centered approach,” said Dr. Aimen Shaaban, Director of the institute and fetal intervention expert. “As always, our goal is to empower pregnant patients and their families to make the best possible decisions about the care they need, and to walk with them through every step of their care plan, whether it involves surgery or another type of treatment.”
FETO, the minimally invasive operation the institute now performs helps manage congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH. CDH is a defect in the diaphragm, or the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen that affects about 2,200 babies in the U.S. each year.
With CDH, the diaphragm does not completely form in a fetus. Abdominal organs shift up into the chest, which prevents lungs from developing properly. In the most severe cases, breathing and survival is nearly impossible with conventional newborn care.
When defect is severe, treating it before a baby is born, at 28-30 weeks gestation, gives them an opportunity for a better outcome. The FETO procedure involves placing a balloon in the fetus’ airway to create a blockage that promotes lung growth through the accumulation of lung fluid. At 34 weeks gestation the balloon is removed. Ideally the pregnancy will continue to full term, at which point the baby is delivered and cared for by Lurie Children’s specialists. Babies with the condition receive respiratory care when they are born and corrective surgery following stabilization.
Most patients diagnosed with CDH go on to live full lives.
“Our team follows these children into adulthood, providing interdisciplinary care along the way,” Dr. Shaaban said. “We ensure all of our patients’ care is individualized and thorough throughout pregnancy and during the child’s life.”
Learn more about The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health at LurieChildrens.org/fetalhealth.