18th Fetal Surgery Reunion Gathers Families Across the U.S.

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Fetal Family Reunion Group Photo 2014 More than 300 children who received prenatal care at CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment gathered with their families to celebrate 18 years of hope. June 23, 2014 — More than 1,500 people from 22 states came together today at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to celebrate the 18th annual Family Reunion hosted by the Hospital’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment .

The reunion, sponsored by the Anapol Schwartz Foundation, brings together a unique community of families who have shared similar struggles. Nearly all of the children in attendance were prenatally diagnosed with a birth defect, such as spina bifida, congenital heart disease or twin-twin transfusion syndrome, that had potentially devastating outcomes. Babies diagnosed with these birth defects either underwent fetal surgery to treat the condition before birth or received highly sophisticated care immediately after birth.

“The fetal family reunion is our team’s favorite day of the year,” said N. Scott Adzick, MD, surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Hospital and director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. “Since our first reunion in 1997, attendance has grown from just 10 families to over 300 at today’s event. We care for families from all over the world, so this reunion is a great opportunity for our team to reunite with them and celebrate.”

Established in 1995, CHOP’s Center is now the largest and most comprehensive fetal program in the world, having welcomed more than 15,000 expectant mothers from all 50 states and more than 60 countries.

“This year is particularly special, as our Center’s very first patients — many whom underwent highly complex surgical interventions to repair birth defects while they were still in their mother’s womb — are graduating high school,” said Lori J. Howell, MSN, RN, executive director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. “Having known these teenagers since before they were born, watching them grow-up into amazing young men and woman is truly remarkable.”

Each week at CHOP, highly sophisticated surgical teams repair spina bifida and other birth defects in the womb, place fetal shunts to treat life-threatening congenital conditions, or perform minimally invasive procedures in the mother’s uterus to treat complications in fetal twins.

Of approximately 4,000 fetal surgeries done worldwide, a quarter of them have been performed at CHOP, more than at any other hospital. The Center staff has also managed thousands of pregnancies complicated by birth defects, like congenital diaphragmatic hernia and gastroschisis, in which newborns need immediate specialized medical care or surgery after delivery.

“It is truly inspiring to see so many children, who as babies likely could have died, now running around and growing up healthy and strong,” said Adzick, “and as the field of fetal surgery and therapy continues to advance, we look forward to treating more and more babies.”


Ashley Moore, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 267-426-6071, moorea1@email.chop.edu