Rare Surgery Performed on Awake Newborn

Thursday, Mar 1 2018

A rare surgery to correct a complication in the digestive system of a newborn baby was performed at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem this week while the baby was awake and sucking sugar water during the procedure (see the video below). A Hadassah Medical Organization spokesperson said that the surgery was performed "for the first time under local anesthesia, when the newborn was only numbed in the surgical area and not under general anesthesia, since that would have endangered his life."

Dr. Tania Rosenthal, an anesthesiologist and pediatrics specialist and director of the Pediatric Anesthesiology Unit at Hadassah, said that due to the difficult condition of the baby, who also suffers from a complex heart defect, a rapid surgical intervention, one that would not endanger his life, was needed. “The surgical procedure was complex, and, because of the baby’s heart condition, we feared full anesthesia would cause problems with his blood pressure and heart function,” she explained.

Dr. Rosenthal decided to use local anesthesia in the spine, a procedure similar to that performed in cesarean sections but which is quite rare in this type of surgery. Said Dr. Rosenthal, “Medical literature documented similar cases. However, such surgery is normally performed under general anesthesia. Following a professional consultation, we chose to use this method to ensure the stability of his vital systems with less risk for the baby."

Dr. Rosenthal explained that spinal anesthesia is a time-limited procedure and that the window of opportunity available to the surgeon is limited. It must be completed quickly before the effect of anesthesia expires. It this case it was less than an hour. Dr. Rosenthal monitored the baby and did not forget the personal touch. "The monitoring,” she said, “was completely standard, watching for blood pressure, pulse, and level of oxidation. But I also gave the little one drops of sugar water during the operation, and he sucked them happily. It felt good to see him happy despite what he was going through in those very minutes."

A spokesperson for Hadassah reported, "This is the first time that such surgery has been performed under local anesthesia at Hadassah and in Jerusalem." Dr. Dan Arbel, the senior pediatric surgeon who operated on the baby, completed the operation and corrected the gastrointestinal defect successfully within the required time frame. "We need to find for each patient the best treatment for his specific condition,” Dr. Arbel said. “This can happen only if we have full cooperation between all the parties treating the patient before, during, and after the operation."

Learn more about the Hadassah Medical Organization.


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