In the run-up to International Women’s Day on March 8th, The Pulse is celebrating the remarkable achievements of women in healthcare around the world. Today, we proudly bring you the heartwarming story of Priscila and her two children, and the technology that saved their lives.
The tiny heart of a 28-week-old fetus is only about three centimeters wide.
To be able to image such a small organ, doctors are equipped with incredibly advanced technology that lets them see it in high-res detail. “To scan a heart that is beating, we need state-of-art technology to see everything clearly and to be able to explore it in detail, because we can then make a diagnosis that can save a life before it has even come into the world”, said Dr. Lilian Lopes, MD at São Paulo University and Director of Clínica Ecokid in Brazil.
To show just how much these new technologies mean to some people, here is the tale of Priscila, Gabriel and Sara: a typical Brazilian family, with a thrilling life story.
During her first pregnancy, 14 years ago, Priscila Ferreira received some news that changed her life. A fetal echocardiograph (an ultrasound scan of a fetus’ heart) revealed that her baby suffered from ventricular tachycardia – a rare disorder that causes an increased heart rate.
“Ventricular tachycardia is very rare, and, like other tachyarrhythmias, it is a sudden disease which does not present many symptoms. Without preventive exams, sometimes there is no time to make a diagnosis and start the adequate treatment”, explained Dr. Lilian Lopes, who was responsible for Priscila’s baby’s diagnosis.
As soon as the diagnosis was confirmed with ultrasound, and under close supervision, Priscila started taking medication as a treatment for her baby. When Gabriel was born, he continued with treatment. When he was just 45 days old, he underwent what is known as a catheter ablation – a procedure to eliminate abnormalities in the heart’s conduction tissue. A pacemaker was then implanted in the Gabriel’s chest to regulate his heart beat. Today, 13 years later, Gabriel has a life any 14 year old could wish for: school, friends and sports fill his days.
During her second pregnancy, Priscila got another shock: her second child – a little girl – had the same heart anomaly as Gabriel. Diagnosed early with yet another fetal ultra-sound, this time at 30 weeks, there was enough time for mom, and then baby, to be medicated. There was thankfully no need for surgical intervention after baby Sarah was born. Today, she is 5 months old. “The best present for me is seeing my children healthy”, Priscila said.
Thanks to the early diagnosis made – twice – with the help of Voluson E8, a GE Healthcare ultrasound device, which enables accurate visualization of the fetal heart from the 12th week of pregnancy, Priscila’s doctors saved a young family more trouble than it is worth imagining.
We agree with Priscila: “Be sure to take the exams during pregnancy. Sometimes we can’t even imagine it, but the child can already be developing a problem that could be diagnosed in advance. Ultrasound, for example, was not used only to discover our babies’ gender; it saved my two children’s lives.”