Pregnancy Health

Fetal Surgery Saves Baby After Water Breaks Early

Doctors in Germany performed a first-of-a-kind surgery in the womb and saved the life of an unborn baby after her mothers water broke at 20 weeks.

When the mother’s fetal membranes burst, the unborn child’s chances of surviving birth were slim, said doctors at the Bonn University Clinic in Germany. Not only was there a high risk of infection, the baby’s lungs stopped growing, and she most likely would have suffocated after birth.

In an effort to save the unborn child, the doctors performed surgery in the womb to stimulate lung growth. They inserted a ballpoint pen-sized fetoscope through a small opening in the mother’ stomach and, guided by a camera and ultrasound, moved the device into the mouth and trachea of the unborn baby.

The doctors then inflated a miniature balloon that blocked the respiratory channel in order to prevent drainage of fluid produced by the prenatal lung. The resulting build up of fluid pressure stimulated lung growth.

The baby girl, who was born in the 33rd week of pregnancy, is now a year old and in good health.

“The prenatal operation only takes one or two hours. Competent follow-up care of the children after birth is at least as important for their healthy survival,” Thomas Kohl, head of the German Center of Fetal Surgery & Minimally Invasive Therapy at Bonn University Clinic, said in a prepared statement.

The doctors described the procedure in an article published Oct. 29 in the journal Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy.



About the author

Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

1 Comment

  • Wish I lived in Germany & been your patient.

    I have just lost my unborn baby after waters broke at 20wks, midwifes & doctors did not believe me and did lots of tests and would not put me in for a urgent scan!

    Reported it on Monday and set home without a scan! Tuesday Bleed heavy, was kept waiting, same checks as day b4 then doc was going to send me home, i said i wanted a scan! and would not fit me in for the day, because i was so anxious he said he would admit me, but could not get a scan until wed afternoon!

    there is alot more to story but to cut along story short i didn’t get a scan till Wednesday afternoon which confirmed what i expressed to the all medical staff concerned, I Knew my waters had broken but I had failed to get across to the medical team!

    I did not get any urgent treatment and was told repeatley that nothing could be done to save baby because it was my 20th week.. I did try to explain it was possible to save my unborn child but they all looked at me daft and i regret not sending them to this article, i was exhausted by this time and completely heartbroken THAT they kept saying if my baby was born that under no circumstances would they treat baby, they would of had a chance to treat me but they were not interested!

    I expressed that i wanted to have baby treated but he insisted they could not they said they can not treat unborn baby’s under 24 weeks.

    My baby was breathing Wednesday just b4 my scan! On thursday morning my baby was 20mths and 4 days old and was 26cm – my baby was not breathing when born and the UK government class this as a miscarriage even though MY baby bigger than my hand.

    ( similar size to my younger brother when he was born premature!)

    I feel my human rights have been refused and IT should be my choice and not theirs to treat my baby! I just keep hearing my baby’s heartbeat that was beating on Wednesday b4 my scan on the 14th april 2010 and on the 15th april 2010 was born dead! Words can not describe my thoughts!

    I am now worried about my health as I have either clots or part of my placenta in my womb!

    Ciara Curran, High Peak, Derbyshire. Uk

    ps: Why can the UK not do this treatment?

    (There were alot more mistakes made by the staff that were treating me AND I would like advice on where / who to go to? )

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