Fetal Cardiac Surgery: A Hope for the Hearts of the Little Ones


For those expecting a baby, the news that their child has a heart defect can generate great uncertainty and anxiety about what might happen. However, thanks to recent medical advances, new possibilities are emerging to bring hope to the hearts of the smallest ones. 

It is a novel procedure called fetal aortic valvuloplasty with a percutaneous balloon (a type of fetal cardiac surgery), which allows the baby to be operated on through the mother's womb and has proven effective in addressing severe aortic stenosis, offering a possibility of life in the face of discouraging diagnoses.

Undoubtedly, a medical advance that has marked the history of maternal-fetal health care and was performed for the first time in Colombia last year on a 32-week-old fetus. The surgery was carried out at the HIC Cardiovascular Institute in Bucaramanga and allowed the baby's heart to continue growing and reach full term. Today, Ángel Mateo is seven months old and in good health.

Although this procedure is a high-risk intervention, it brings multiple benefits: it prevents premature birth, increases survival rates, and improves the biventricular function of the heart, that is, the left and right sides of the organ.


According to experts, the surgery involves making an approach through a puncture in the mother's abdomen, crossing with a needle through the uterine wall, the fetal chest wall, and the heart muscle until reaching the diseased aortic valve. The procedure requires a multidisciplinary team that includes specialists in Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Perinatology, Pediatric Cardiologists, Hemodynamicists, and Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists.

Among the heart defects that can be treated is tetralogy of Fallot, a combination of four anomalies affecting the heart. On one hand, a defect in the ventricular septum (the wall that separates the ventricles), pulmonary stenosis (narrowing of the valve), an aorta that is positioned over the right ventricle, and right ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of the muscle).

Additionally, there is the transposition of the great arteries, a condition where they are connected in reverse, causing abnormal blood circulation. There is also left ventricular hypoplasia, which impairs the heart's ability to pump blood adequately to the body. While each case is unique and outcomes may vary, this novel procedure today shows the world that patients can be managed from intrauterine development, expanding life expectancy for babies with complex heart conditions.


What can you do as a mother?

In the journey toward motherhood, knowledge, and information are very valuable allies for making informed decisions. Therefore, it is essential to work closely with a specialized medical team that carefully evaluates all possible treatment options and helps you determine the best course of action.

If you are pregnant and have not received a diagnosis, but want to rule out any anomalies, you can opt for specialized examinations such as screening ultrasound, detailed anatomy scan, fetal echocardiography, and neurosonography.

At the HIC Cardiovascular Institute, we are leaders in cardiovascular health care and treatment. With over 35 years of experience and multiple innovative procedures, we have saved the lives of thousands of people in Colombia and Latin America. For more information, you can contact our International Office team, who will guide you to receive the best care.