LONDON — Surgeons in Britain have saved the life of a baby girl who was born with her heart outside her body as a result of a rare condition that usually leads to the termination of pregnancy or death, the hospital where she was treated said on Wednesday.
The Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, England, said the infant, now named Vanellope for a Disney character, was born with a rare condition known as ectopia cordis and had been thought to have less than a 10 percent chance of survival. The surgery to relocate her heart was said to be the first successful procedure of its kind performed on a newborn child in Britain, although a few comparable cases have been reported in the United States.
Her parents, Naomi Findlay, 31, and Dean Wilkins, 43, of Nottingham, England, discovered in June that they were expecting their first child. A scan at nine weeks showed ectopia cordis, with the heart and part of the stomach growing externally, the hospital said in a news release.
The condition is extremely rare — estimated at five to eight cases per one million live births. “Because of the risk of infection, as well as the risks from the associated defects, pregnancies may be terminated or babies may die in the womb or soon after birth,” the hospital said.
“All the way through, it was, ‘The chances of survival are next to none. The only option is to terminate. We can offer counseling,’ and things like that,” Ms. Findlay, the mother, told The Leicester Mercury newspaper.
“In the end, I just said that termination is not an option for me,” she said. “If it was to happen naturally then so be it.”
Hospital officials in Leicester said the medical team knew that other physicians had tried to perform the same procedure at intervals of roughly two to three years, but none had been successful in Britain.
The baby was born without a breast bone, Dr. Bu’Lock said, and physicians are planning to create some form of artificial sternum at a later stage. After three operations, the infant’s heart, which had protruded through a hole in her chest, is now in her body and covered by her own skin.
The baby was named Vanellope Hope Wilkins. The name was taken from a character called Vanellope von Schweetz in the animated film “Wreck-It Ralph.”
Explaining the name, Ms. Findlay told The Leicester Mercury: “Vanellope in the film is so stubborn, and she turns into a princess at the end, so it was so fitting. The Hope part is the fact that it has brought us hope.”