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Fetal Care

First Fetal Care Patient Goes Home          


Molly and Charlie Mueller were the first surgical patients of the
St. Louis Fetal Care Institute.

     One look at tiny Charlie Taylor is enough to confirm that this baby is at once both a miracle and spectacularly ordinary.

     Charlie and his mother, Molly Mueller of south St. Louis, were the first surgical patients of the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute (FCI).  Charlie is a miracle because FCI surgeons used fetoscopic surgery to remove an amniotic band wrapped around his right leg in the womb. At the same time, he is ordinary because he now has the same chance to grow and play that is afforded to so many other children. 

     The operation was performed at St. Mary’s on June 18, 2009, when Charlie was at 24 weeks gestation.  Amniotic bands restrict blood flow, sometimes resulting in amputation or severe deformity of the affected limb. When the amniotic band was severed with a laser in surgery, Charlie’s leg immediately went from purple to pink, an indication that adequate blood flow had been restored.  He was born 10 weeks after the surgery, and spent three weeks in the Cardinal Glennon NICU before going home with his mother.


               Pre-surgery                            Post-surgery


Charlie's surgery was a success.

     The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute is co-directed by fetal surgeon Ed Yang, M.D., Ph.D., and maternal-fetal medicine specialist Mike Vlastos, M.D. The team includes pediatric surgeons, neonatologists, maternal-fetal specialists and geneticists, and is part of the complex, comprehensive pediatric surgery program that offers state-of-the-art surgical care for fetuses, newborns and children of all ages.    

     "We were ready to drive to Ohio for this surgery if we had to, but we’re really thankful that we were able to do it here," Molly Mueller said. "Dr. Vlastos makes you feel really comfortable and answers all your questions, and Dr. Yang clearly has a lot of knowledge and confidence.  They were both really good at explaining what they were going to do for me and my baby, and that made me feel very comfortable with having the surgery done."     

     Many of the procedures offered by the FCI are fetoscopic, meaning that surgeons can use tiny scopes to do fetal surgery.  This is less traumatic to the pregnancy, and only about 20 sites in the country offer fetoscopic intervention.

     For some fetal problems, however, the womb has to be opened to perform fetal surgery and then closed so the pregnancy may continue. This is performed at only six sites nationwide.  Cardinal Glennon is the only provider of this service in Missouri or Illinois; the next-closest site is in Cincinnati.

      "The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute provides a source of hope for parents in middle America" Dr. Yang explains.  "We’re able to offer the most advanced fetal operations right here in St. Louis that parents previously would have had to travel hundreds of miles to receive."

     No matter the distance traveled, Mueller says she is grateful to have her baby healthy and whole.

     "All I want for my baby now is that he grows up to be healthy and happy, to have the same chances that every other child has," Mueller says.  "Thanks to the Fetal Care Institute, he has an opportunity for a great future."

Molly and Charlie smile with Dr. Ed Yang. 



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