Published on in CHOP News
June 23, 2013 — More than 1,300 people from 16 states came together today at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to celebrate the 17th Annual Family Reunion hosted by the Hospital’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment.
The reunion 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 immediate highly sophisticated care 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 250 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 nearly 15,000 expectant mothers from all 50 states and more than 50 countries.
Center celebrated 1,000th fetal surgery in 2013
“This year is particularly special as we recently marked 1,000 fetal surgeries — highly complex surgical interventions to repair birth defects in the womb,” said Lori J. Howell, MSN, RN, executive director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment.
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 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’s multidisciplinary staff has also managed thousands of pregnancies complicated by birth defects, in which newborns need immediate specialized medical care or surgery after delivery.
Special Delivery Unit marks fifth anniversary
“This year also marks the fifth anniversary of our Center’s Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit,” said Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD, maternal fetal medicine specialist and medical director of the SDU. “Established in 2008, the Unit was the world’s first birth facility specifically designed for mothers carrying babies with known birth defects.”
Babies born in the SDU either undergo fetal surgery or need immediate specialized postnatal care or surgery. Today, more than 1,460 babies, with many different fetal diagnoses, have been delivered in the Unit.
“It is truly inspiring to see so many children, who as babies likely could have died, now running around, 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, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 215-630-4683 (cell), Moorea1@email.chop.edu