Newborn baby saved thanks to 3D heart scan while still in the womb

By Toby Porter

A newborn baby was given the gift of life, thanks to a 3D heart scan which helped diagnose his condition before he was born.

Little Leo Coe is now a thriving seven-month-old who is starting to wean and loves his bouncer.

Just hours after he was born at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, he underwent a complex procedure which his medical teams had already prepared for, thanks to the detailed scans he received while still in the womb.

The success of the operation was down to the early detection of his condition and collaboration between specialists at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust – which merged on February 1.

Leo has Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Drainage (TAPVD), a type of congenital heart disease where the veins that carry oxygenated blood back from the lungs don’t connect to the heart in the normal way.

This condition can make babies very sick, and some will need urgent surgery to redirect veins from their lungs to their heart soon after they are born. But it can be difficult to know which babies will need an early operation from ultrasound scans alone.

A problem with the baby’s heart was initially spotted when Leo’s mum Laura Teale went for her 20-week pregnancy scan.

She was then referred to the fetal cardiology unit at Royal Brompton Hospital for further scans, where Dr Laura Vazquez-Garcia, consultant fetal and paediatric cardiologist, diagnosed Leo with the condition.

She referred mum Laura to the fetal cardiology team at Evelina London Children’s Hospital – currently the only centre in the world to use the new 3D MRI technology.

Laura delivered in the operating theatre at St Thomas’ Hospital, with a surgeon from the Royal Brompton Hospital ready to perform the surgery as soon as it was needed.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ is London’s only hospital with a specialist children’s hospital and women’s services on one site.

Dr David Lloyd, paediatric and fetal cardiology consultant at Evelina London – part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ – collaborated with Dr Laura Vazquez-Garcia on the delivery with multiple specialists.

Mum Laura, 36, an operations manager for the arts service in Richmond, said: “The doctors told me that they would give Leo the best chance of life they could. That was all I wanted to hear.

“Looking at Leo, you wouldn’t know he has a heart condition and a big operation.

“We feel incredibly lucky that Leo’s condition was picked up. The fates were on our side. No-one wants to have that diagnosis, but for Leo it might have been a completely different story if his condition hadn’t been picked up before he was born.

“This has saved his life and given him a better life. We’ve benefitted from this great partnership with specialists at Royal Brompton, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Evelina London.

“We appreciate so much what all the doctors and nurses have done for Leo and us during this past year. We could never thank them enough.”

Leo was born at St Thomas’ Hospital on 2 July and initially looked to be in good health, but he soon started struggling to breathe and his doctors operated immediately.

Laura said: “We knew what his condition was and that even with planned treatment, babies respond differently to the surgery. It was all a big unknown.”

After 12 days in intensive care, then a week in the children’s ward, Leo went home.

Laura said: “He’s putting on weight, starting to wean and he’s coming off his medication. He’s growing really well – the only clue to what he’s been through is the big scar on his chest.”

Dr David Lloyd, from Evelina London, said: “It’s wonderful to see Leo doing so well. 3D fetal MRI scans allow our teams to see the baby’s heart, lungs and blood vessels in more detail before they are born.

“This enables us to give the best possible care to babies and their families.”

Dr Laura Vazquez-Garcia, from Royal Brompton Hospital, said: “I’m very pleased that Leo is doing well.

“By sharing expertise and technology with Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Evelina London, we’ve been able to give Leo the best chance at good health. Being able to assess the lungs and vessels prior to delivery in this type of heart condition is extremely important.”


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