KNH Medics Transfuse an anemic Fetus while still in the Womb

August 1, 2023

Medics at Kenyatta National Hospital are celebrating a medical milestone after successfully performing a transfusion of a fetus while still in its mother’s womb.

The delicate procedure known as intrauterine fetus transfusion was carried out by a team of seven medics constituting of four doctors, two nurses, and a clinical officer on a 25 weeks old baby.

They include Rosa Chemwey, Flavia Ogutu, Ikol Adung’o and Kunjira Murayi, an Interventional Radiologist.

They were assisted by Benson Nyankuru and Redempata Mumo who are nurses, and Tony Wainaina, a reproductive Health Clinical Officer.

The procedure involves transfusion of red blood cells where the blood is injected into the fetus to treat anemia or low blood count.

The team infused between 80 to 100mm of pack red blood cells in the operation which they said will be critical in preserving the pregnancy of the woman who had previously lost two pregnancies.

Using ultrasound to determine the position of the fetus and placenta, the surgeon inserts a needle into the mother’s abdomen and then into the umbilical vein or the fetus’ abdomen.

Red blood cells that are compatible with the fetus’ blood type are passed through the needle into the fetus.The fetus may be given additional medication to stop movement.

According to Chemwey, out of the four pregnancies, the mother only had one successful delivery.

“The mother only has one baby, the last two died of a blood complication known as hemolytic disease of the newborn,” she said.

The hemolytic disease is a blood disorder that occurs when the blood types of a mother and baby are incompatible.

“We are indeed very determined to ensure this particular pregnancy succeeds. We hope for positive outcomes. This baby is 25 weeks, three days old,” Chemwey added.

She said the baby had severe anaemia because the baby was ‘rhesus alloimmunized’.

This is a situation in pregnancy when the maternal red blood cells (RBCs) lacking the rhesus antigen are exposed to rhesus-positive red blood cells through the placenta leading to the activation of the maternal immune system.

“So the mum’s antibodies destroy the baby’s blood, which then develops into anaemia over time,” she described.

According to the specialists, the transfusion procedure takes between 30 minutes to an hour.

KNH CEO Evanson Kamuri hailed the KNH team for another milestone.

“This is foetal medicine and an institutional landmark. We have attained yet another achievement in fulfilling our mandate as a top premier referral hospital.”

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