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Baby born with heart outside of body defies the odds thanks to surgeons at Texas Children's Hospital

Baby Audrina makes history

HOUSTON, Nov. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At only five weeks old, Audrina Cardenas already has a lot to be thankful for. Audrina, who was born with her heart outside her chest, a very rare diagnosis known as ectopia cordis, is currently recovering at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. She received a life-saving surgery five weeks ago to repair her heart and has defied the odds and is doing very well.


Only eight per one million babies are born with ectopia cordis, a rare congenital malformation where the heart is abnormally located either partially or totally outside the chest. Of those eight, 90 percent are either stillborn or die within the first three days of life. On Oct. 16 a multidisciplinary team of surgeons at Texas Children's saved Audrina's life during a miraculous six hour open-heart surgery where they reconstructed her chest cavity to make space for the one-third of her heart that was outside of her body.

"This risky operation on such an uncommon condition required specialists from a variety of care teams including cardiovascular surgery, plastic surgery and general pediatric surgery," said Dr. Charles D. Fraser, surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). "I have only seen this condition a few times in my career and these are always very tricky cases; in fact, many of these babies do not survive.  If Audrina would not have been referred to a facility like ours that could provide this full spectrum of care from managing her in-utero to immediate heart surgery after birth, she would not be here today. Audrina is a true fighter and we are so excited that this was a good outcome." 

Audrina's story

During a routine ultrasound 16 weeks into Ashley Cardenas' pregnancy, Dr. Jorge Blanco, a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist in Midland, Texas, discovered a problem. The sonogram image indicated that part of Audrina's heart was forming outside of her chest. Ashley was given three options: she could either terminate the pregnancy, opt for comfort care – an option that would provide physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual comfort for the terminal infant – or elect to have her baby undergo an extremely risky surgery after she was born. Ashley continued her close follow-up care with the Midland specialists who managed her care until transfer.

"After my doctors explained just how sick my baby was and what options I had, it didn't matter how scared I was, I knew I had to do anything possible to save my daughter's life," said Cardenas. "As soon as I made my decision to continue with the pregnancy, the physicians in Midland referred me to Texas Children's Hospital where a team of miracle workers provided the specialized treatment and care my baby and I both needed."

Texas Children's Fetal Center received the referral for Ashley who was first evaluated just weeks before she would be scheduled for delivery. Ashley's initial evaluation included an ultrasound, fetal echocardiogram and fetal MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) which allowed the MFM team at Texas Children's to develop a unique care plan for her delivery. On Oct. 15, Texas Children's Pavilion for Women delivered Audrina by caesarian and she was immediately attended to by a large team of neonatal specialists who took over her care.

"Once the cardiac surgeons were finished operating on Audrina, the plastic surgery team played a pivotal role in completing this surgery as we were responsible for covering her heart beneath her skin and muscle," said Dr. Larry Hollier, chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of plastic surgery at BCM.

Audrina's future        

Today, five weeks after her life-saving surgery, Audrina has defied the odds and made history.

"Despite Audrina's misplaced heart, she was born with no other syndromes or genetic conditions that would cause additional stress or complications on her heart," said Dr. Carolyn Altman, pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at BCM.  "Although her future prognosis is uncertain, Audrina is currently thriving and making progress each day."

Audrina is currently in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Texas Children's. She will continue to be carefully followed by a multidisciplinary team and will require specialized care by a pediatric cardiologist for the rest of her life.

"Our family has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, especially the team at Texas Children's who saved Audrina's life," said Cardenas. "We look forward to the day when Audrina can come home with us and we can be reunited as a family."

For more information about Texas Children's Heart Center visit

About Texas Children's Hospital

Texas Children's Hospital, a not-for-profit organization, is committed to creating a community of healthy children through excellence in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked among the top children's hospitals in the nation, Texas Children's has recognized Centers of Excellence in multiple pediatric subspecialties including the Cancer and Heart Centers, and operates the largest primary pediatric care network in the country. Texas Children's has completed a $1.5 billion expansion, which includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; Texas Children's Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; and Texas Children's Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston.  For more information on Texas Children's, go to Get the latest news from Texas Children's by visiting the online newsroom and on Twitter at

Contact: Elizabeth Shackouls

SOURCE Texas Children's Hospital

About PR Newswire
Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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