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Health Team

C-section surgery saves babies before birth

Posted May 24, 2013

Some babies require surgery right after they're born, and other procedures can be done on a developing fetus inside the womb. In the past couple months, a team at the University of North Carolina Hospitals performed life-saving surgeries on two babies in between.

They used a procedure called EXIT. When a baby is close to full term, doctors perform a Caesarean section and operate on the child while it remains connected to the umbilical cord and the placenta, still receiving oxygen and anesthesia from the mother.

When she was about 18 weeks into her pregnancy, doctors told Kimberly Dupree that her son had a tumor on his right lung. Baby Audrey Robak had a similar condition.

The masses, though benign, threatened to overwork the babies' growing hearts.

fetal surgery EXIT surgery saves unborn babies

"This mass can grow very large, take over an entire side of the baby's chest," Goodnight said.

UNC pediatric surgeon Dr. Sean Mclean and UNC-Rex maternal medicine specialist Dr. William Goodnight led a multidisciplinary team to plan the best course of survival for the two babies.

"Everyone was on the same page. That helped build confidence in us," said Audrey's father, Brian Robak.

Both babies had successful EXIT surgeries. The C-section incision is closed up, and the babies are delivered.

Landon Dupree was born April 18. "It's unreal what they can do," his father, Nick Dupree, said. 

"He's doing very well, much better than the doctors had anticipated," said Kimberly Dupree.

Audrey was born about month earlier, and her parents couldn't wait to take her home.

The EXIT procedure has been used for about 15 years, but this is the first time UNC has used the procedure to remove lung masses.

There's only one other hospital in the southeast prepared to do it, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

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