Public Release: 

Children's Hospital Colorado doctors complete first-ever EXIT to ventricular pacing

While a baby was still attached via the umbilical cord, doctors attached a pacemaker to the baby's heart to ensure healthy heart rate and blood flow prior to delivery

Children's Hospital Colorado


IMAGE: Researchers at Children's Hospital Colorado have completed the first-ever EXIT to ventricular pacing procedure. While a baby was still attached via the umbilical cord, doctors attached a pacemaker to the... view more 

Credit: Children's Hospital Colorado

Aurora, Colo. (Feb. 16, 2018) - Researchers at Children's Hospital Colorado (Children's Colorado) have completed the first-ever EXIT (Ex Utero Intrapartum Treatment) to ventricular pacing procedure. The patient, a 36-week fetus, who suffered from complete atrioventricular block (CAVB) and cardiac dysfunction, was at high risk of dying before delivery. While still attached to its mother via the umbilical cord, the baby received a temporary pacemaker, which stabilized its dangerously low and irregular heart rate and ensured enough blood flow from the heart to the rest of its body for delivery.

"In essence, this procedure gave the fetus the gift of time," said Bettina Cuneo, MD, fetal cardiologist. "Not only were we able to expose the heart and attach the pacing leads to make the heart rate faster, we were able to make sure the heart was functioning effectively before cutting the umbilical cord."

A team of experts led by Dr. Cuneo and Henry Galan, MD, maternal fetal medicine at the hospital's Colorado Fetal Care Center, worked with a multi-disciplinary team including Max Mitchell, MD, cardiothoracic surgery, to perform the procedure, and the infant was successfully delivered. Their research was recently published in Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy.

The risk of perinatal death in the first day of life is six-to-eleven times higher if a fetus:

    - Develops CAVB at less than 20 weeks of gestation

    - Has a fetal heart rate less than 55 beats per minute

    - Develops heart failure

This approach should significantly lower this increase in mortality for a preterm fetus with these conditions.

"With the mother's body acting as a heart and lung bypass machine, the EXIT procedure allows life-saving fetal interventions while maintaining in-utero circulation," said Dr. Galan. "Although careful selection of patients is necessary, this 'rescue' pacing not only provides an option for the most fragile patients with CAVB, but also for fetuses who are at high risk for in-utero loss of life but are too premature for delivery."


About the Colorado Fetal Care Center at Children's Hospital Colorado

The Colorado Fetal Care Center (CFCC) at Children's Hospital Colorado is a national referral site for prenatal evaluation for high-risk pregnancy, counseling and treatment of fetal anomalies and congenital conditions. The CFCC offers the full continuum of maternal, perinatal, neonatal and nationally-ranked pediatric subspecialty care under one roof. In partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the CFCC provides access to the most advanced fetal treatments available. Under the leadership of pioneers in fetal medicine and fetal surgery, the CFCC is continually improving the outlook for unborn patients with a known fetal condition through integrated care, multidisciplinary collaboration and dedicated research, and consistently reports some of the best outcomes in the nation. For more information, visit

About Children's Hospital Colorado

Children's Hospital Colorado is a leading pediatric network 100 percent dedicated to the health and well-being of children, adolescents and young adults. Consistently acknowledged as one of the nation's top pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Children's Colorado is recognized nationally and internationally for its medical, research, education and advocacy programs. For more information, visit, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Children's Hospital Colorado complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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