Baby recovers from huge tumor thanks to UC Irvine doctors

December 27, 2012
Wyatt Dunbar

IN THE NEWS: UC Irvine’s Dr. Manuel Porto described the complex delivery and treatment of a newborn with an life-threatening tumor in his neck for an Orange County Register feature story. The tumor had grown as large as his head by the time he was delivered.

The UC Irvine team had agreed the best course was a complicated procedure called an EXIT, which stands for ex utero intrapartum therapy. It’s essentially two operations at once: First the baby—in this case, Wyatt and his giant tumor—is brought out using a standard Caesarian section, an incision in the belly and into the woman’s uterus.

What happened next was critical: Since Wyatt’s airway was blocked by the tumor, they had to keep him breathing through the umbilical cord until his trachea could be opened up. In a normal birth, you want the mother to push, contracting the uterine muscles to shut off the supply of blood to the placenta as the baby comes out.

“We want to keep the fetal circulation through the placenta to the mother intact and as vibrant as possible until the airway is secured,” Porto said.

Porto brought out just the head and an arm, so a monitor could be attached to Wyatt’s tiny finger. Basically, he was still a fetus, being nourished by his mother, even though he was outside her body. Then the pediatric head and neck surgeon in the room, Dr. Gurpreet Ahuja, went to work. He quickly found the trachea, and a breathing tube was inserted.

Even with a massive tumor attached to him, Wyatt was safe for now. He weighed 5 pounds, 13 ounces, but the tumor, despite the drainage, weighed an estimated 1.1 pounds.

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