Sheffield tumour tot doctors in medical first

Maureen Roberts with her  twins Isabel, left, and Alexandra.
Maureen Roberts with her twins Isabel, left, and Alexandra.
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DOCTORS in Sheffield have made medical history by saving the life of a tiny twin baby – after she was born with a tumour on her neck the size of an orange.

The team, from Sheffield Children’s Hospital and the Jessop maternity wing, raced against time to secure an airway for little Isabel Roberts, as the cancerous growth was so big it crushed her throat.

Isabel’s tumour weighed 0.6lb – a sixth of her 3lb 9oz weight when mum Maureen Roberts, 35, gave birth.

Dr Ayman Eissa, who oversaw the delivery, said the operation was the ‘most stressful few minutes’ of his career.

Maureen first gave birth to Isabel’s twin sister Alexandra by Caesarean section, which went well and without any problems.

But the surgeons were faced with a more complex situation with the second baby.

The medics discovered the tumour was pressing down so hard on Isabel’s airway she would not have been able to breathe if she had been born in the normal way.

They had to free her head from the uterus, allowing her to continue getting oxygen from the umbilical cord as they fitted a tube down her constricted throat to enable her to start breathing normally.

Dr Eissa, a consultant anaesthetist at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said he and his colleagues had to find and secure Isabel’s airway during a tense ‘exit procedure’.

“As soon as the baby’s head was out of the uterus it was a race against time,” said Dr Eissa.

“We estimate the placenta will continue to supply oxygen through the cord for up to five minutes, but you can never be sure. It could break off at any time.

“The baby was so small and the tumour so big, it was a difficult job to secure the airway.

“The relief when I secured the tube was unimaginable. It was definitely the most stressful few minutes of my career.”

Maureen said they found out she had an abnormal mass at an ultrasound scan 33 weeks into the pregnancy.

She said: “The few weeks leading up to and after the twins’ arrival were a blur. It’s crazy to think just how much has happened to my baby.

“I can remember walking into the operating theatre to have the caesarean and not knowing what was going to have happened when I woke up.”

The hospital believes Isabel, now 16 weeks old, is the first twin baby in the UK to undergo the rare procedure.

Her tumour was removed 10 days after she was born and specialists believe she has every chance of making a full recovery.

Neil Bateman, the consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon who removed the tumour, said: ‘The tumour was sitting right on the trachea and was very close to her major arteries. It was tricky to remove, but I managed to get it all.

“When we weighed the tumour it accounted for one sixth of her entire body weight. It is very rare for a baby to develop a tumour of this size in the womb.”

Tests showed the tumour was cancerous and Isabel was put on a course of chemotherapy at the children’s hospital after her birth.

Maureen and husband Simon, 29, are now back home in Hoyland, Barnsley, with the twins and their two other daughters – 16-year-old Sarah and Olivia, 11.