Surgeons put baby's heart in his chest

Published November 23, 2006

MIAMI - Using a piece of Gore-Tex fabric to make their repairs, doctors performed corrective surgery on a baby born with his heart outside his chest, and said Wednesday that the youngster should be able to lead a close-to-normal life.

Naseem Hasni underwent surgery to put his heart inside his chest hours after being delivered by Caesarean section Oct. 31 at Holtz Children's Hospital.

He remained in critical but stable condition Wednesday.

"He's not going to be able to play certain kinds of sports where a blow to the sternum to you and me wouldn't be a problem, but in him it would be..." said Dr. Eliot Rosenkranz, a cardiothoracic surgeon. "Certainly the goal is as normal a childhood as he can achieve."

Before the surgery, Naseem's heart looked like a peeled plum sitting atop his pink chest, with the aorta diving back underneath the skin. Nevertheless, the heart was beating normally.

During the six-hour operation, surgeons first wrapped Naseem's heart in Gore-Tex, then a layer of his own skin, to substitute for his missing pericardium, the sac that encloses the heart. The heart was then slowly eased inside his chest.

The baby was born with an extremely rare congenital defect, ectopia cordis, in which the heart grows outside the body and the chest wall and sternum fail to develop. The defect was spotted in an ultrasound exam in late September after the mother, Michelle Hasni, 33, began feeling unusual movement from the baby.

Naseem was delivered at 36 weeks, a few days early. Other than that, Naseem had developed normally: He was 21 inches long and 9 pounds, 2 ounces at birth.

Ectopia cordis occurs 5.5 to 7.9 times per 1 million live births, and the survival rate after surgery is less than 50 percent.