NRL News

Unborn baby removed from mother’s womb to remove malignant tumor, put back in to be delivered safely 10 weeks later

by | Dec 28, 2021

By Dave Andrusko

Reporting for, Julie Washington offers an amazing story of how Cleveland Clinic doctors performed a rare and complex lifesaving fetal surgery to remove a tumor from Rylan Drinnon’s heart while he was in the womb and return him to his mother’s womb where he was born ten weeks later.

The clinic performed the surgery in May but held off until last week to “give Sam Drinnon and her son Rylan time to recover, and physicians to ensure they had no post-surgery complications, the Clinic said.”

At 26 weeks, doctors removed a malignant tumor—“the size of a peach pit”—from Rylan, which “was cutting off circulation to its organs and threatening to cause heart failure,” Washington reported.

“I knew that our heart surgeon, Dr. Najem, was a great technical surgeon and his results were amongst the best in the world,” said Dr. Darrell Cass, director of the Clinic’s Fetal Surgery and Fetal Care Center, who led the medical team.

“Only one previous incidence of continued pregnancy and delivery after (this kind of surgery) is documented in the world’s medical literature,” said Dr. Cass.

What follows is Washington’s vivid description of the nearly four-hour surgery.

[It] began with Sam Drinnon anesthetized and an incision — similar to a Cesarean section — made to expose the uterus. Ultrasound allowed the surgeon to carefully locate the placenta and nearly seven-month-old fetus, and determine the best location for entering the uterus.

A nearly 5-inch incision in the uterus was opened, and the arms of the fetus were brought through the incision to expose its chest.

Dr. Hani Najm, chair of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, inserted an intravenous line in the right arm to deliver fluids and medications.

Najm carefully opened the chest and pericardium, the membrane enclosing the heart, and removed the tumor.

“As soon as the tumor was removed, the compression of the left atrium disappeared, and there was a nice blood flow that was almost back to normal,” Najm said.

After the tumor was removed, the chest was closed and the fetus was returned to the uterus.

“Such an innovative fetal surgery provides hope to other families who may receive a similar devastating diagnosis,” Najm told Washington.

As you would expect, the family is overjoyed they were able to “find a team of physicians to help their son.”

Now they have this beautiful boy, Rylan, and they think he’s going to be special,” Cass said. “He’s going to grow up to be at a completely normal kid that just had a really unique odyssey to get to where he is now.”

Categories: Unborn Children