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Boston doctors perform groundbreaking brain surgery on baby still in womb

Boston doctors perform groundbreaking brain surgery on baby still in womb
Boston doctors perform groundbreaking brain surgery on baby still in womb 02:48

BOSTON – A team of doctors from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital performed a groundbreaking surgery on a baby still in the womb. The remarkable brain surgery was performed recently for the first time in the United States.

Derek and Kenyatta Coleman are from Louisiana. Theirs was a normal pregnancy until doctors noticed something unusual on their 30-week ultrasound. That was when they had to choose whether or not to treat their baby before she was born.

Baby Denver was growing normally inside her mom, when on a routine ultrasound, doctors discovered she had a vein of Galen malformation, a rare blood vessel abnormality inside the brain. Many babies with this condition develop heart failure or brain damage and often don't survive. In fact, Denver's heart was struggling, and the malformation was getting dangerously large.

So, at 34 weeks of pregnancy, a team at Boston Children's and the Brigham were able to repair her malformation while she was still in the uterus, using ultrasound guidance, a needle similar to those used for amniocentesis, and tiny coils that were placed directly into the abnormal blood vessels to stop blood flow. 

The left side of this image shows the large vessel the right side of the image is after the repair.

The image on the left show the baby's brain before surgery, while the image on the right shows the brain after the procedure. Boston Children's Hospital

And this is the brain 26 days after the baby was born.

The baby's brain 26 days after she was born. Boston Children's Hospital

Dr. Darren Orbach, a Boston Children's Hospital physician, spoke to WBZ-TV about the intricate procedure he performed.

"The best part was when she was born, just seeing her in the NICU be fine and, you know, we would all sort of look at each other and pinch ourselves," Orbach said. "We were not sure when it was OK to celebrate because you just don't see that with these babies. So that was really the moment that we knew that all was going to be great."

Denver's mom and dad say all the stars were aligned to save their little girl.

Derek, Kenyatta and Denver Coleman
Derek, Kenyatta and Denver Coleman CBS Boston

"Derek and I are deeply rooted in our faith and we prayed hard for this," Kenyatta Coleman said. "You know, there was no doubt in our minds that God would perform a miracle and he did, on a public platform using a little girl before she was even born. She made her mark on the world."

It's been seven weeks since the procedure and mom and baby are doing very well. The couple says they are eternally grateful to the healthcare teams that took care of them here in Boston, but are happy to be back home in Louisiana with their three other children 

The procedure was part of an FDA-approved clinical trial.

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