Technology helps doctors diagnose baby with heart defect while in womb

Technology helps doctors diagnose baby with heart defect while in womb

February 1st kicks off American Heart Month, and it will have a special meaning for a Pensacola family.

Looking at Madelynn Rigdell, you wouldn't know the four-month-old already had open heart surgery.

"After they said, 'your baby has a heart condition, we found something on her Echo,' I think we blacked out. We didn't take in anything after that, it was kind of a blur," said Madelynn's mother, Morgan.

Madelynn had a congenital defect involving a large hole in her heart and obstruction of blood flow to her lungs. The same Echocardiogram that monitors her progress now at Sacred Heart pediatric cardiology in Pensacola, revealed the problem before she was born.

"With the technology now, you can actually make a lot of the diagnoses that were made 20 to 30 years ago after delivery. We're able to determine that while the baby's still in the womb," said pediatric cardiologist Dr. Theresa Roca.

That meant Morgan could plan to have her delivery at Shands in Gainesville, where the baby's surgery would be performed before she turned a month old.

"If a mom delivers and she does not know the baby has heart disease, she could literally have to stay at the hospital, the child is shipped by helicopter, airplane to the surgical center, and they are separated," Dr. Roca said.

The prospect of open-heart surgery on an infant was almost overwhelming for the family.

To her mom, Madelynn still seems a bit of a fragile treasure, but Dr. Roca said she can have an active, healthy life.

Madelynn said, "I hope that she understands her congenital heart defect, but doesn't let it limit her."