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Baby Born With Heart Outside Of Body Defies The Odds Thanks To Surgeons At Texas Children's Hospital





Baby Audrina makes history

HOUSTON, Nov. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At only five weeks old, Audrina Cardenas already has a lot to be thankful for. Audrina, who was born with her heart outside her chest, a very rare diagnosis known as ectopia cordis, is currently recovering at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. She received a life-saving surgery five weeks ago to repair her heart and has defied the odds and is doing very well.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121120/DC17243)

Only eight per one million babies are born with ectopia cordis, a rare congenital malformation where the heart is abnormally located either partially or totally outside the chest. Of those eight, 90 percent are either stillborn or die within the first three days of life. On Oct. 16 a multidisciplinary team of surgeons at Texas Children's saved Audrina's life during a miraculous six hour open-heart surgery where they reconstructed her chest cavity to make space for the one-third of her heart that was outside of her body.

"This risky operation on such an uncommon condition required specialists from a variety of care teams including cardiovascular surgery, plastic surgery and general pediatric surgery," said Dr. Charles D. Fraser, surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). "I have only seen this condition a few times in my career and these are always very tricky cases; in fact, many of these babies do not survive.  If Audrina would not have been referred to a facility like ours that could provide this full spectrum of care from managing her in-utero to immediate heart surgery after birth, she would not be here today. Audrina is a true fighter and we are so excited that this was a good outcome." 

Audrina's story

During a routine ultrasound 16 weeks into Ashley Cardenas' pregnancy, Dr. Jorge Blanco, a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist in Midland, Texas, discovered a problem. The sonogram image indicated that part of Audrina's heart was forming outside of her chest. Ashley was given three options: she could either terminate the pregnancy, opt for comfort care – an option that would provide physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual comfort for the terminal infant – or elect to have her baby undergo an extremely risky surgery after she was born. Ashley continued her close follow-up care with the Midland specialists who managed her care until transfer.

"After my doctors explained just how sick my baby was and what options I had, it didn't matter how scared I was, I knew I had to do anything possible to save my daughter's life," said Cardenas. "As soon as I made my decision to continue with the pregnancy, the physicians in Midland referred me to Texas Children's Hospital where a team of miracle workers provided the specialized treatment and care my baby and I both needed."

Texas Children's Fetal Center received the referral for Ashley who was first evaluated just weeks before she would be scheduled for delivery. Ashley's initial evaluation included an ultrasound, fetal echocardiogram and fetal MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) which allowed the MFM team at Texas Children's to develop a unique care plan for her delivery. On Oct. 15, Texas Children's Pavilion for Women delivered Audrina by caesarian and she was immediately attended to by a large team of neonatal specialists who took over her care.

"Once the cardiac surgeons were finished operating on Audrina, the plastic surgery team played a pivotal role in completing this surgery as we were responsible for covering her heart beneath her skin and muscle," said Dr. Larry Hollier, chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of plastic surgery at BCM.

Audrina's future        

Today, five weeks after her life-saving surgery, Audrina has defied the odds and made history.

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