Baby Born With Heart Outside Body Leaves Texas Hospital

Audrina Cardenas had life-saving surgery to tuck her heart back in her chest.

ByABC News
January 25, 2013, 11:27 AM

Jan. 25, 2013— -- A baby girl born with her heart outside her body has been discharged from the Texas hospital that saved her life.

Audrina Cardenas was born Oct. 15, 2012, with a condition known as ectopia cordis, in which part of the heart grows outside the chest. The birth defect is usually fatal, but Audrina survived a six-hour operation at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston to tuck her heart back into her body. And on Wednesday, she went home – the scar on her chest visible through a pink protective shield.

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Eight babies out of every million are born with her condition and 90 percent of the eight are either stillborn or die within the first three days of life.

"I was told that it is a very rare condition and that the survival rates are really low and that if she did survive they don't know what kind of life she will have," said Audrina's mother, Ashley Cardenas, who learned of the baby's condition when she was 16 weeks pregnant. "They gave me the option to terminate the pregnancy, continue with the pregnancy and do something called comfort care at the time of delivery, where instead of doing anything painful to her or do surgery they let you spend as much time with her until she passes, or opt for a high-risk surgery to help repair the heart.

Cardenas decided to carry on with the pregnancy despite low chances of Audrina's survival.

"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," she said.

"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," Dr. Charles D. Fraser, surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine told ABC News after Audrina's surgery. "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 ... Audrina is a true fighter and we are so excited that this was a good outcome."

"We're not definitive about her prognosis, but so far, so good," Fraser added. "We are very optimistic about the long-term prognosis. The baby will probably have to have operations in the future. Her sternum is about half formed but these are things we can deal with."

Ashley Cardenas expressed her gratitude for the team of doctors that worked tirelessly to save her daughter's life.

"If it wasn't for them and the grace of God, she wouldn't be here," she said.