Groundbreaking, Life-Saving Procedure Sets A Precedent In Fetal Therapy

Leyna Gonzalez

It’s a terrifying situation for any mother. When she was only 17 weeks pregnant, Tammy Gonzalez learned that the developing fetus in her womb had a teratoma, a large tumor made up of different types of tissue, growing rapidly from the soft palate. The ultrasound revealed that the large tumor had already reached the size of a peach.

Tammy had three options – risk a possible miscarriage, terminate her pregnancy, or a nerve-wracking, endoscopic surgery to remove the tumor in the womb.

Tammy remembers telling the team at the Jackson Fetal Therapy Institute “let’s do this.” While the team of specialists had never performed this procedure, they had successfully handled some of the most complex cases in the nation.

Two weeks after her fateful decision, the team inserted a tiny camera and surgical tools through a quarter-inch incision in Tammy’s belly and entered the amniotic sac. She was treated with local anesthesia, was awake during the procedure, watching the surgery on the ultrasound monitor.

Using the ultrasound as a guide, the stem of the tumor was located and carefully detached it. The tumor proved too big to remove from the amniotic sac, so it floated in the womb until Leyna was born four months later – unharmed and totally healthy.

Tammy calls Leyna, now five years old, her “little miracle child.” Happy and strong, Leyna has hardly a mark to show for all that she’s been through.

Learn more about our high-risk maternity services and specialized neonatal support, visit