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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK


Surgeons operate on baby during birth

The tumour was blocking Joshua's windpipe

Doctors have have performed a remarkable operation to remove a tumour from the body of an baby while it was being born.

The BBC's Jon Kay: "This is the first time this operation has been performed"
Surgeons at St Michael's Hospital in Bristol removed the life-threatening growth during a caesarian delivery, while the baby boy was half in and half out of his mother's womb and still attached to the placenta.

The operation was planned after doctors discovered a large tumour on the neck of Rachel Snider's unborn child during a routine scan.

The growth was already as big as an orange and was blocking the baby's windpipe.

[ image: The lump was detected in a scan]
The lump was detected in a scan
Without surgery, he would have died as soon as he had to breathe for himself.

Doctors decided the only way they could clear the blockage was while the child was actually being born.

So they carried out a remarkable operation with the baby's head and neck outside the womb but with the rest of his body still inside.

That meant he could receive oxygen from his mother's placenta until he could breathe on his own.

More work needed

The baby - who has been named Joshua - is making good progress but he will still have to undergo reconstructive surgery and hormone treatment because his thyroid gland was also removed.

[ image: Rachel Snider:
Rachel Snider: "We didn't know if he was going to live or die"
Professor Peter Soothill, a leading specialist in maternal medicine who led the 28-strong medical team, said: "I was very apprehensive before the operation because there was quite a chance we couldn't get the tube down and the child would certainly have died.

"If the diagnosis had not been made with the routine ultrasound scan then the child would have definitely died - it is very valuable to have these checks.

"The mother wanted us to try anything we could to help the baby and at first we did discuss a termination.

"The pioneering aspect of the operation that was new was the way we supplied the oxygen through the placenta. This is done very rarely and, I believe, for the first time in this country.

Wonderful delivery

"It was so wonderful and exciting to see the baby half-delivered and pink, with his oxygen level never falling, though he couldn't breathe.

[ image: Professor Peter Soothill led the operation]
Professor Peter Soothill led the operation
"We gave a special anaesthetic to the mother which caused the womb to stop contracting. One person was standing steadying the baby's head while another kept the rest of his body inside the mother."

The operation took place four weeks ago, but news of it only emerged on Wednesday.

The announcement came just a week after a similar procedure was used to unblock the windpipe of a premature baby in Newcastle.

Doctors at Newcastle-upon-Tyne's Royal Victoria Infirmary kept baby Jaydon Vasey in suspended labour while the emergency operation was carried out.

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