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Local doctors perform rare procedure on fetus' heart

    A 29-week-old fetus underwent successful heart surgery in its mother’s uterus, a Shanghai hospital announced yesterday. The surgery was the first of its kind ever performed entirely by domestic Chinese doctors.

    The rare and delicate procedure took place at Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital on June 20 to address a worsening heart structure abnormality. Although the fetus’s heart was functioning properly following surgery, doctors say further care will be necessary following delivery.

    The surgery involved inserting a 17cm long needle into the fetus’s right ventricle and pulmonary valve. The needle carried a 3.5mm capsule used to dilate the valve.

    According to the hospital, the fetus’ heart is only about as big as an almond.

    One of the surgeons who took part in the operation, Sun Luming, said such procedures are rare because of their high risk. Complications follow half of such surgeries, while about 10 to 20 percent of fetuses do not survive.

    According to information from the International Fetal Cardiac Intervention Registry, only about 200 interuterine heart surgeries have taken place worldwide between 2001 and 2015.

    Local hospitals often wait several weeks following rare surgeries before publicizing their results.