Team of Wake Forest Baptist Health doctors perform rare procedure to save unborn child

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It’s a rare procedure that took a team of doctors and nurses at Wake Forest Baptist Health to save an unborn child. And how they did it is remarkable.

Maxton Nelson’s start in life was a rare one. At 38 weeks pregnant, his mom Nicole’s ultrasound showed Maxton had a mass on his neck.

“It was awful — worst feeling in the world,” Nicole said.

According to Dr. Dan Kirse, with Brenner Children’s Hospital, “The concern with that is, a baby with a very large mass may not be able to breathe. If the baby is not able to breathe when it’s delivered that can be a very dangerous situation.”

So doctors quickly gathered to perform a rare procedure called ex utero intrapartum treatment, or EXIT. Basically, a partial C-section, leaving the child connected to the mother via the umbilical cord so the baby could continue receiving oxygen while doctors work on the mass and Maxton’s airway.

“The challenge is really performing the delivery in a controlled manner because if this was a standard routine C-section and the appropriate preparations were not made it would not had been a good outcome,” said Dr. Jeff Denney, with Wake Forest Baptist Health.

It took a team of dozens of doctors and nurses.

“One of the things that complicated it was we really didn’t know what the tumor was. Basically we had to do the operation to see how it would unfold,” Dr. Luke Neff said.

But after lots of planning, Maxton’s birth was a success.

“He is doing great. We have had no setbacks,” Nicole said.

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