The University of Maryland Center for Advanced Fetal Care provides state-of-the-art care for the smallest of patients - unborn babies with complex conditions such as heart defects, fetal growth problems and chromosomal abnormalities. This week, the center celebrated the opening of its expanded facilities, which double the size of the center and include upgraded equipment to provide cutting-edge diagnostic and treatment options for these babies and families.
The center dedicated the new facilities with a ribbon-cutting on October 16. That same evening, more than two dozen grateful families were among the guests at a celebration at the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards.
“These families and children are at the heart of what we do at the Center for Advanced Fetal Care. Whether we are performing a routine ultrasound or a life-saving fetal transfusion, our team of physicians, sonographers, nurses and counselors is dedicated to doing all we can to help. We want to give these families the knowledge to make informed medical decisions about their child’s future,” says Christopher Harman, M.D. , director of the Center for Advanced Fetal Care at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and professor and vice chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The center offers an array of screening tools, including advanced imaging using 3D ultrasound, fetal MRI, fetal echocardiography and fetal biopsies. The center was the first in Maryland to offer fetoscopy, a procedure using a tiny fiberoptic camera to allow doctors to see the baby inside the uterus. This technology is used during fetal laser surgery for conditions such as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a life-threatening imbalance of blood flow in some cases of identical twins.
The center also provides prenatal screening for all pregnant women, offering a unique, comprehensive risk assessment in the first trimester, using ultrasound, fetal blood flow monitoring and special blood tests to rule out potential pregnancy problems with a high degree of accuracy.
“Through our first trimester screening, we are able to get a very detailed look at the fetus and we can sort out many possible complications,” explains Ahmet Baschat, M.D., head of the section for fetal therapy at the University of Maryland Medical Center and an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
He adds, “The majority of women do not get this important triage of risks in the first trimester of their pregnancies. In those cases where we do detect a possible problem with the baby, identifying those abnormalities early offers us the best opportunity for treatment.”
Staffed by world-renowned physicians and researchers, the Center for Advanced Fetal Care is also advancing the understanding of fetal growth and development through its research, such as investigating maternal blood serum markers to identify early signs of pre-eclampsia, a dangerous development of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Another research initiative involves testing a new non-invasive fetal monitor that may provide valuable information about changes in an unborn baby’s heartbeat and movement over an extended period of time.
The team also helps to manage maternal health conditions that may affect the pregnancy, such as diabetes or heart disease. The center’s staff has many years of expertise with multiple births for families expecting twins, triplets or more.
“The University of Maryland has been a leader in advancing the field of maternal/fetal medicine. The expansion of the Center for Advanced Fetal Care exemplifies our commitment to providing the best care possible for mothers, babies and families,” says Hugh Mighty, M.D., chairman and associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Mighty is also chief of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
While the staff for the Center for Advanced Fetal Care has already moved into the new facilities, the expansion will continue over the next few months. A Feng Shui artist designed the new space with subdued lighting, calming colors and soft fabrics in order to provide a relaxing atmosphere for patients.
Among the grateful patients attending the October 16 evening celebration was Natalya Khazan, who was told she would have to abort one of her twins because the baby wasn’t growing properly. Khazan came to the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Fetal Care, where doctors worked to save both babies, who are now 18 months old. Khazan says, “Without the Center for Advanced Fetal Care, my children wouldn’t be here right now. Everyone there is truly wonderful.”