MIAMI -- Jackson Memorial Hospital surgeons report that they have performed the world's first removal of an oral tumor from a baby in utero.
At a press conference Thursday, Tammy Gonzalez said she went in for a routine ultrsaound at 17 weeks and saw a peculiar sight: It looked like her daughter was blowing a bubble out of her mouth.
"What is this? No one could give me an answer because it was so rare, it had never been seen. "
The bubble was actually a peach-sized tumor growing out of the mouth of her baby while in utero. Such a growth is seen in only 1 in 100,000 pregnancies, according to Jackson doctors.
"Once I met with the doctor and they told me what my options were, they weren't very good," Gonzalez said. "And this baby was already kicking at 17 weeks. And I thought, there has to be a way to save her. "
She was put in touch with Dr. Ruben Quintero, a renowned fetal surgeon who was willing to attempt removal in utero although he had never done such a procedure before.
So at 21 weeks pregnant, Gonzalez was given local anesthesia as doctors performed endoscopic surgery on her abdomen, using a laser to severe the tumor from the baby's hard palette. Gonzalez said she watched as the "bubble" floated away on the screen.
"It was like this huge weight had been lifted off me. It just floated away and I could finally see her face," Gonzalez recalled.
The tumor, known as an oral teratoma, was left in the amino cavity and retrieved after delivery. Doctors confirmed that the tumor was in fact benign.
Although the operation carried a miscarriage risk, if the tumor had been left alone, it could have caused fetal death or deformation as such masses can grow rapidly upwards to 2 pounds.
Gonzalez's daughter, Leyna, is now 20 months old. During the press conference, the lively toddler turns to Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos, one of the surgeons who performed her surgery, and repeatedly high-fives her.
Watch the video above.
"To our knowledge," Quintero said, "No one has reported being able to successfully remove an oral teratoma in utero." It was recently published in the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" as the first of its kind, reports the hospital.
The medical success story comes on the heels of other recent good news from Jackson: the miraculously removal of a fishing spear from a teenager's brain and the rehabilitation of face-mauling victim Ronald Poppo.