Fetal heart surgery: Hypoplastic left heart syndrome

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Hypoplastic left heart syndrome or HLHS is a birth defect that affects blood flow and structures on the left side of the heart. (KFSN)

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome or HLHS is a birth defect that affects blood flow and structures on the left side of the heart. Every year in the United States, about one in 4,300 babies is born with the condition. Now, experts have developed a new technique for the highest risk patients to help restore blood flow before birth, and have made one boy the first survivor of the condition.

Stosh Frydlewicz has come a long way in three years.

Tony Frydlewicz, Stosh's father, told ABC30, "Going through everything we went through, I didn't know if we'd ever be able to hold him."

Stosh was diagnosed before he was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Jack Rychik, MD, Director of the Fetal Heart Program, and Professor of Pediatrics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia told ABC30, "The left ventricle cannot do what it's supposed to do, and therefore such children depend upon the right ventricle to do the job of the left."

But Stosh had an additional high-risk complication. A wall separated the top chambers of the heart, blocking blood from passing into the lungs.

Cardiologists planned to place a needle through Stosh's mother Katrina's abdomen and uterus into Stosh's chest, and then deploy a stent between the blocked heart chambers. Without the fetal procedure, doctors said Stosh would not survive after birth.

Katrina explained, "If that's the only option we have, that's what we have to try."

Using ultrasound guidance, doctors plotted a trajectory for the needle. As soon as the stent was deployed, blood began to flow normally.

"I remember all I could ask was, did it work, and they said yes, it worked and I just started crying," Katrina recalled.

At 39 weeks, doctors delivered Stosh by C-section. A larger stent was placed right after birth and he went home a happy, 8-pound boy.

Katrina told ABC30, "I don't think a day goes by that I don't count my blessings."

HLHS patients traditionally need a series of surgeries after birth. Stosh had his first surgery at two days and a second surgery at two months. He is preparing for a third surgery. Surgeons have only performed the fetal heart surgery on HLHS patients with a blocked atrial wall a few times.

For more information on this report, please contact:

Ms. Joey McCool
Public Relations
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