A baby born with her heart outside her body has survived after surgery

13 December 2017        

In what is believed to be a first in the UK a baby girl born with her heart outside her body has survived. 

The child, Vanellope Hope Wilkins, was born by cesarean section three weeks ago at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. The team of fifty specialists have cared for Vanellope since her birth have carried out three different procedures to move Vanellope’s heart inside her chest. 

The first procedure started within minutes of birth, consultant neonatologist Jonathan Cusack explained:

"At around 50 minutes of age, it was felt that Vanellope was stable enough to be transferred back to the main theatre where she had been born to the waiting anaesthetists, congenital heart disease and paediatric surgical teams who began the task of putting her entire heart back inside her chest."

Shortly after this first procedure Vanellope was taken to the paediatric intensive care unit. After seven days in intensive care she had progressed enough for surgeons to feel confident carrying out the second procedure, opening her chest a bit more to allow the heart to settle into place. 

Over the following two weeks her organs continued to settle into her chest making the final procedure, to close the chest with the heart completely inside, possible. 

Commenting on Vanellope’s remarkable progress June Davison, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“Ectopia cordis is an extremely rare congenital defect. 

The prognosis depends on the severity of the condition and if there are other abnormalities. Treatment needs to begin immediately after birth. 

We are very happy that this baby survived to undergo surgery and wish them all the best.”

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