Abu Dhabi doctors perform life-saving surgery on newborn with rare condition

One of the 'most challenging cases' ever, say medical professionals


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Fri 19 Nov 2021, 3:33 PM

A multidisciplinary team of doctors at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) successfully performed a complex liver procedure to save the life of a seven-day-old baby in Abu Dhabi.

Doctors at SKMC, part of Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) – the UAE's largest healthcare network in the UAE, termed it among one of the "most challenging cases" conducted on a newborn that involved inputs from several experts, including those from the US and Australia.

It was in December 2020 that baby Fatema was born with a rare, life-threatening congenital vascular malformation. Fatema's mother Sumaya was shocked to learn about the health condition of her baby.

"It was a tough time for me when the doctors informed me that my child had a rare condition. I was told that my child is literally one in a million," the Sudanese expat mother told Khaleej Times.

Shortly after birth, the baby became breathless due to the shunting of blood from the liver directly to the heart, causing severe heart failure.

Dr Ravi Gadahadh, Consultant Interventional Radiologist, SKMC, said: "Ultrasound of the liver showed a large congenital hepatic arteriovenous malformation – an abnormal communication between the arterial and the veins of the liver. It was the likely cause of a high-output cardiac failure, which happens when a normal heart cannot keep up with the increased demand of blood to more than one organ. This could cause heart failure and be fatal unless immediately treated. The ultrasound of the heart showed further complications of a large hole in the heart."

Upon transfer to SKMC and in line with the network's multidisciplinary approach, a meeting was held with doctors and consultants from various specialties, including interventional radiologists and paediatric experts in the fields of gastroenterology, intensive care, and anaesthesiology. It was decided to proceed with the high-risk and technically complex surgery, as it was the best option.

"The intricate surgery was performed under general anaesthesia and X-ray guidance and lasted four hours. We successfully blocked the abnormal shunt, which caused the amount of blood entering the heart to reduce significantly, subsequently lowering the risk of heart failure," said Dr Gadahadh.


While preparing for the rare and complex surgery, Dr Gadahadh discussed the case with international experts in the US and Australia.

"This helped us have sufficient resources in-house to deal with any complications. If anything didn't work, we were reassured to know we had a contingency plan. Thankfully, we achieved the best outcome and the baby was safely discharged home."

Sumaya is relieved to see her baby lead a healthy life and all set to mark the first birthday.

"Since the operation at SKMC, my child's health condition has been improving day by day. She's now living a healthy life and playing just like any other baby. I am so happy seeing her growing every day. I'm very excited that Fatema is turning one years old in December. We shall be celebrating her birthday with family members and also pray to Allah for her life," the mother said.

"I can't stop thanking the SKMC doctors for the tremendous effort. They saved my baby's life. I always had a strong belief that she is in the best hands and that she will recover," she added.

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