The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) brought together a unique community of families from across the Midwest: all former CHOP patients who traveled to Pennsylvania and either underwent fetal surgery to treat conditions before birth, or needed specialized care or surgery immediately after birth. The group of about 100 people gathered at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
This reunion is an outgrowth of CHOP’s annual Fetal Family Reunion, an ongoing 19-year tradition in which over 1,600 people from across the U.S., gather in Philadelphia each June to celebrate, reconnect with their medical teams, and interact with other families who have experienced similar struggles. Nearly all of the children in attendance were prenatally diagnosed with a birth defect, such as spina bifida or twin-twin transfusion syndrome that had potentially devastating outcomes.
“Babies with special needs require very specialized and experienced care, both before and after birth. The families gathered here today represent more than 17,000 expectant mothers, from all 50 states and over 60 countries, to whom we’ve been able to offer hope and support since opening our Center in 1995,” said N. Scott Adzick, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital and director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment.
This Cleveland reunion was an opportunity for clinical staff and patient families to reunite, celebrate and enjoy a fun-filled family day at the Gardens. Patients who attended the reunion ranged from just several months old to some of the Center’s first patients who are now teenagers.
“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.
Leaders in fetal medicine
The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP is a pioneer in the field of fetal medicine, and is one of only a few programs worldwide to offer comprehensive prenatal diagnosis, fetal surgery and therapy, and the option of delivering at a leading pediatric hospital.
Each week at CHOP, highly sophisticated fetal surgery 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 heart disease in which newborns need immediate specialized medical care or surgery after delivery.
Sharing advances in maternal-fetal care
On Saturday, Oct. 3, The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP also partnered with University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital to host a multidisciplinary, educational symposium for healthcare professionals in maternal-fetal-neonatal care. Experts reviewed recent advances in maternal-fetal care with an emphasis on congenital anomalies amenable to fetal intervention. Lectures addressed key concepts in prenatal counseling, fetal therapy, genetic testing, perinatal surveillance, surgical management and outcomes.