YOUR HEALTH: Saving a child in the womb

A team of doctors and a unique surgical coil saved a unborn baby.

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – A chorangioma is a blood tumor that develops in the placenta during pregnancy.

When the tumor is small and doesn't grow, it poses little risk to the baby, but in rare cases, the cells multiply, and the tumor becomes deadly.

But doctors at one hospital used an unusual solution to save one little boy.

Little Oliver White is a one-year old miracle.

Happy.  Healthy.  And here, despite incredible odds.

Mom and dad, Samantha and Jesse, were thrilled when they learned they were pregnant with their first.

Then, at 22 weeks, an ultrasound showed a frightening complication.

"We had a large tumor on the placenta," Samantha remembered.

"And we needed to do something right away."

"It was growing at a pretty rapid pace," said Jesse White, Oliver's father.   "There was a good chance another two weeks had gone by, it would have been too late."

"It was a ten-centimeter tumor," said Dr. Stephen Emery, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital said.   "It was as big as the baby was."

Dr. Emery and interventional radiologist Philip Orons teamed up to cut off the blood supply to just the tumor, without harming Samantha or her baby.

The best bet?

A minimally invasive technique, called micro coil embolization.

"It's basically just a needle passed through the skin through the wall of the uterus and into the feeding blood vessels," said Dr. Emery.

After Dr. Emery positioned the needle, Dr. Orons deployed two tiny coils through the catheter.

"Within moments, seconds of putting the coils in place, we saw the blood flow had stopped," said Dr. Philip Orons,  interventional radiologist.

With the tumor sealed off, Samantha continued her pregnancy, and delivered Oliver full-term.

MICROCOIL EMBOLIZATION: Philip Orons, DO, an Interventional Radiologist at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital said, “We were very worried there was going to be shunting inside the tumor. And if we used agents that moved too easily, we risk them going right to the tumor and going right to the baby. In this case, we wanted to use something larger. In general, one of the tenets of embolotherapy is the bigger the embolic, the safer the embolic. The biggest embolics we have are actually cup coils.” He explained the treatment, “We use something called a micro coil which is a little platinum device with little threads on it. It looks almost like a teeny fishing lure and we call it a coil because even though it starts out straight when you push it through a catheter or through a needle it coils up.” These percutaneously placed microcoils initiate clot formation at the site of insertion and are unable to migrate through the tumor, thereby minimizing fetal harm.

The Whites say they'll tell their son about his medical journey someday.

"Tell him he's famous," said Jesse White.   "One-of-a-kind."

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.