Breakthrough prenatal surgery at 17 weeks saves Miami girl’s life: doctor suggested abortion

When Lyna's condition was diagnosed, her mother’s gynecologist suggested getting an abortion.
Mon Jun 25, 2012 - 11:18 am EST

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25, 2012 ( – Expectant parents have less to fear from birth defects, thanks to a recent breakthrough in prenatal surgery. 

A Miami girl, Lyna Gonzalez, underwent a never-before-done surgery that saved her life – while she was just seventeen weeks in the womb.  Today, the only sign of the operation is a slight scar on her lip. 

The May 2010 procedure removed an oral teratoma, a tennis ball-sized benign tumor that had formed on Lyna’s mouth.


When Lyna’s condition was first diagnosed doctors were sure the baby would be stillborn or would need life support and numerous surgeries after birth.  The mother’s gynecologist suggested aborting the little girl. 

“It’s the most horrible feeling you could ever imagine; physically, emotionally, mentally,” Tammy, the baby’s mother, told CBS.



But the parents’ research led them to Dr. Ruben Quintero, a University of Miami/Jackson Memorial fetal surgeon.  With a record number of breakthroughs in prenatal procedures, Quintero – along with Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos – led an ultrasound-guided surgery, using an endoscope to remove the tumor.

Quintero invented some of the instruments used in the operation. 

“This was an opportunity to expand the field we have developed, to treat birth defects in utero,” said Quintero.

Lyna was born completely healthy, weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce.  Today she is an energetic twenty-month-old. 

Oral teratoma occurs in 1 in 100, 000 pregnancies.  With over 4 million babies born in America each year, this procedure is set to benefit many. 

“This is what happens when we allow ourselves to focus on the unborn baby as a patient and person - extraordinary, life-saving medical procedures,” said Monica Rafie, speaking on behalf of Be Not Afraid, a pro-life organization that provides support for parents given poor prenatal diagnoses.

Rafie congratulated Dr. Quintero, saying, “Kudos to Dr. Quintero and team and all those like him who are willing to take on the challenge of helping babies in utero.”

But while expressing hope for cutting edge procedures such as the one that saved Lyna’s life, Rafie cautioned parents given a poor prenatal dignosis against expectations, either good or bad:  “It is important to not appear too invested in any particular outcome, because sometimes babies who had a good prognosis don’t do as well as expected, and similarly, babies who were not expected to survive beyond birth end up thriving.”


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