• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Fetal surgery sets the stage for a healthy birth

March 11, 2018

Diagnosed with a life-threatening condition at 20 weeks gestation, Xavier Sorying underwent an innovative operation while in utero that helped him overcome his birth defect.

Xavier Sorying is a calm, smiley 7-month-old who seldom fusses and recently discovered his voice. His baby squeals and babble, and even his cries, delight his parents, Melissa and Ben Sorying. They also reassure the couple that despite a troubled start, their son is healthy.

Before Xavier was born, his diaphragm — the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest — developed a hole. As a result, his abdominal organs moved into his chest cavity, pushing aside his heart and restricting his lung development.

Called congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH, the rare condition affects roughly 1 in 2,000 infants. It put Xavier at risk for a slew of life-threatening complications, including underdeveloped lungs, pulmonary hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders and failure to thrive.

"It was scary," Melissa says. "There was a lot of stress and crying."

As devastated as Melissa and Ben were when they learned of their baby's diagnosis at Melissa's 20-week ultrasound, the couple, who live in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, were given a glimmer of hope. Specialists in the Fetal Diagnostic and Intervention Center at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus were pioneering a treatment as part of a clinic trial that would allow Xavier's lungs to grow and develop, improve his chance of survival, and minimize future complications from his condition.

Two months later, Melissa and Xavier underwent a fetal surgery known as fetoscopic endoluminal tracheal occlusion, performed under the direction of Rodrigo Ruano, M.D., Ph.D., in Mayo Clinic's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"It still blows my mind that he went through all of that so quickly, and here we are, seven months later, and he's growing and healthy," Melissa says. "You wouldn't even think that he had CDH until you see his scar. He's doing everything like a normal baby should." Read the rest of the story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.