Doctors Remove Tumor From Fetus In Surgical First

By Amir Khan on June 22, 2012 10:35 AM EDT

Tumor Baby
Leyna Gonzalez is a healthy 20-month-old baby girl, but that wasn't always the case. Before she was born, she underwent a surgery to remove a tumor from her mouth in what surgeons are calling "a world's first." (Photo: American Journal of Obstetrics)

Leyna Gonzalez is a healthy 20-month-old baby girl, but that wasn't always the case. Before she was born, she underwent a surgery to remove  a tumor from her mouth in what surgeons are calling "a world's first."

During her mother Tammy's pregnancy, doctors performed an ultrasound and saw what appeared to be the unborn Leyna blowing a bubble. But that bubble was actually a tumor, doctors said.

"It's the most horrible feeling you could ever image; physically, emotionally, mentally," Tammy Gonzalez said at a press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital, according to CBS News.

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Leyna had an oral teratoma, a rare congenital tumor that affects anywhere from one in 35,000 to one in 200,000 live births, according to the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Doctors feared that Leyna would not survive the birth with the tumor and that even if she did, she would immediately have to undergo multiple surgeries. Instead of terminating the pregnancy, Tammy sought out Dr. Ruben Quintero at the University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, a fetal surgery specialist.

"The concern with these tumors is that they can grow very rapidly," Quintero said at the press conference. "And they can cause bleeding from the fetus - from the baby - into the tumor. That bleeding can cause the death of the baby."

In May 2010, doctors used an endoscope to remove the tumor from Leyna's mouth, a surgical first.

"To our knowledge, this is the first successful treatment of a feetal oral teratoma in utero," the doctors said.

Tammy was awake and witnessed the whole procedure.

"I could see it floating down," she said. "It was like this huge weight had been lifted off. It just floated away and I could see her face."

Leyna was born on October 1, 2010 at a healthy 8 pounds. She has no ill effects from the tumor or the surgery, and the only remnants of the tumor is a small scar on her upper lip.

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