Heart Defects Fixed In Utero Give Hope

Last fall, Jay and Sally Wiley were happily waiting for the arrival of their second child, CBS News contributing medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports. Sally is an obstetrician herself, so on a quiet day in her office, she decided to have a sonogram.

"They told us there was something seriously wrong," Sally says.

At 22 weeks of pregnancy, Sally's baby was developing a devastating heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. A valve releasing blood from the heart was narrow — too narrow. As a result, the left side of the heart was steadily shrinking and shutting down. Their baby was losing half his heart.

What were their options?

"Well, we had some hard decisions to make — whether or not we wanted to terminate the pregnancy, which we could have done, or just ride it out," Jay explains.

Their "ride" took them to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Dr. Louise Wilkins Haug.

The plan seemed impossible: operate on the baby, before he was born. Sally and her baby underwent a fetal heart operation in October. Doctors placed a needle through Sally's abdomen, into the uterus, through the baby's skin and directly into the heart of the baby. It's an amazing feat since at that point, the heart of a fetus is about the size of a grape.


Only On The Web: Watch more of Dr. Sanjay Gupta's interview with cardiologist Jim Lock.
Images of the baby's heart were taken during the actual procedure, which show the tip of the needle inside the left ventricle.

Once the needle reached the blocked valve, a tiny balloon was inflated, clearing the way for blood flow in the ventricle.

Doctors could see right away the blood flow in the baby's left ventricle. When the blood could finally escape, the heart started to grow.

Earlier this month, Anders Wiley entered the world, and so far, both the ventricles in his heart are pumping.

Anders is in a neo-natal intensive care unit, so doctors can monitor how his heart is working. You can barely see his scars.

Anders faces a long road ahead. There is no guarantee that the valve in left ventricle won't close again, but for now, he has a fighting chance at a normal life.