“We went from having no hope that our baby would survive to having her with us today.”

In January 2016, after three years of trying, Courtney and Robert were overjoyed when finding out they were pregnant with their second child – a baby girl. At a routine visit, Courtney’s obstetrician said her ultrasound scan results suggested the baby’s stomach was in the wrong place – an indication of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Their happiness soon gave way to worry.

While its cause is unknown, CDH affects about 1,000 babies born each year. This occurs when there is an abnormal development of the baby’s diaphragm in utero.  This causes the intestines and abdominal organs to migrate into the chest cavity, leading to compression and underdevelopment of the lungs. Although the hole in the diaphragm can be surgically corrected after birth, the underdevelopment of the lungs prenatally results in a high fatality rate or long-term complications for a surviving child.

Referred to The Fetal Center

Their physician directed Courtney and Robert to The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital where they traveled from their hometown of San Antonio the following week to see Anthony Johnson, D.O., Co-Director of The Fetal Center and a high-risk pregnancy specialist at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

Courtney was evaluated as a candidate for fetoscopic endoluminal tracheal occlusion (FETO), an experimental trial to treat babies diagnosed with severe CDH before birth through the minimally invasive procedure. FETO intervention, performed during pregnancy, involves placing a balloon in the unborn baby’s airway, causing a backup of fluid produced by the lungs. The buildup of fluid promotes lung growth and development.

FETO Intervention

Courtney and her daughter would become the first FETO intervention patient of The Fetal Center.

On July 7, 2016, Courtney underwent FETO intervention, performed by Dr. Johnson and the multidisciplinary team affiliated with The Fetal Center. The procedure went well, and the balloon was successfully inserted into the baby’s trachea.  The next step was a follow-up operation in August 2016 to remove the balloon from the baby’s airway. Because the baby’s chin was pointed down and the doctors could not gain access to her trachea to remove the balloon, Courtney had an emergent C-section, and the team successfully removed the balloon at delivery.

On Aug. 21, Baby Aryah was born.

Click here to read more about Aryah’s successful fetal CDH procedure and how she’s doing today, one year later.

The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, affiliated with the physicians at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, is a national leader in fetal diagnosis, fetal intervention and comprehensive fetal care for babies with congenital anomalies or genetic abnormalities. A national referring center, The Fetal Center offers patients a complete range of prenatal testing and fetal interventions with a coordinated program for mother and child before, during and after birth. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, click here.

Located within the UT Physicians Professional Building in the Texas Medical Center, The Fetal Center is affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and the physicians at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.


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Ali Vise