August 1, 2012

Israeli doctors at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer saved the lives of a mother and her infant son by performing a rare – and incredible – procedure called extrauterine intrapartum treatment (EXIT).

The operation, which has only been performed a handful of times, is done during a caesarean section when the baby is only partially delivered and is still attached to the umbilical cord and placenta.

During a routine checkup, doctors at a northern Israeli hospital found that the mother’s baby had a life-threatening blockage in his breathing passage and referred their patient to Sheba Medical Center. Though just in her 30th week of pregnancy, doctors at Sheba pointed to surgery as the only option to save the baby.

The EXIT procedure is extremely rare and complicated. Some 30 medical professionals, including 10 doctors from various specialties, took part in the surgery.

The 12-minute operation started with a Caesarean section during which the baby’s head and shoulders were pulled out.

“We checked his throat with an endoscopic device with a camera, inserted via the mouth, to see if it would be possible to insert a breathing tube,” Professor Michael Wolf, head of Sheba’s ear, nose and throat department, told Haaretz.

Upon realizing a breathing tube was not the answer; doctors removed the baby from the womb but left him attached to the umbilical cord placenta to maintain placental circulation. They then performed a tracheostomy thus opening a breathing hole in his throat.

The baby is now in stable condition.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director