Born With an External Heart

CNN reported yesterday on a baby born with ectopia cordis, a rare congenital condition in which the sternum (breastbone) and pericardial sac do not form properly; the heart develops outside the chest.

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 away 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.

Looks like the surgery went well. Later on, surgeons will graft pieces of his ribs to construct a sternum. You may read the whole story and see a couple photographs at CNN.

Update: Ncurse has more on this over at ScienceRoll. (Edited at 09:25, 25 November 2006.)

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