Young girl beating odds with the help of a new procedure

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- A baby girl is beating the odds after being born with a host of health problems including Esophageal Atresia, a condition that affects one in 2400 babies.

This condition causes the esophagus to end in a blind pouch instead of connecting to the stomach making it impossible to eat.

But now a first of its kind procedure using magnets helped put this little girl back together again.

The Lamb trio, Llyanna, Gideon and Willow, have overcome many obstacles together since coming into this world as preemies at 27 weeks.

Willow weighed only one pound 13 ounces, and her fight for survival was about to begin.

"They came in and said, well she doesn't have an anus and I'm like what does that mean? They're like we are going to have check but she does not have a hole,” said Trelane Lamb.

At three days old a colostomy was created for her anorectal malformation, and a g-tube was placed after further testing revealed her esophagus was not connected to her airway.

“She had a tube down her throat that would suck out basically all of her secretions so that she could breathe, because she could drown." said Trelane.

Then eight months later Dr. Harold Lovvorn, a Pediatric Surgeon at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, first performed surgery on her esophagus to bring together the upper and lower ends.

Instead of another major surgery to connect them he used specially designed medical magnets. This was the first procedure of its kind in the U.S.

"We can place them through her mouth and then through her gastrostomy tube up the lower esophagus, so that they would have their physical attraction for one another,” said Dr. Lovvorn.

The magnets wear away at the tissue between them until they connect creating a perfectly aligned opening between the two ends of the esophagus, and allowing food, saliva and liquid to flow into Willow's body.

Willow is now developing nearly as well as her brother and sister, but it is still taking time to adjust to new experiences.

Since willow wasn't able to have her esophagus repaired until she was eight months old she missed the period of time when newborns learn to suck and swallow, so her mom says she's still adjusting to eating.

Last November she also had colostomy closure surgery and is recovering from that as well.


REPORT: MB # 3773b.

BACKGROUND: Esophageal atresia is a congenital defect in which the child's esophagus does not develop in the right way. For most babies, it means they can't eat. In most cases of esophageal atresia, the upper esophagus, instead of connecting to the lower esophagus which goes on to the windpipe and stomach, just ends. Other cases can involve simply the narrowing of the esophagus. It's estimated the defect occurs in about one out of every 4,000 births. It's also generally associated with other conditions as well, including tracheoesophageal fistula, heart problems, and other digestive tract complications. (Source:
SIGNS: The defect is considered a surgical emergency, and as such any of the signs need to be seen and reported as soon as possible. Some of the signs include:
* Frothy bubbles in mouth
* Blue color to the skin, especially when feeding
* Difficulty breathing
* Coughing or chocking during feeding
* A round, full abdomen (Source:

DR. LOVVORN: "The magnets are interesting because we could place them through her mouth and then threw her gastrostomy tube up the lower esophagus so that they would have their physical attraction for one another. They have to be within 4 centimeters in order to have that attraction. Fortunately her two pouches were still together so they didn't have that much distance to overcome. They had about 7 millimeters is what we determined that they needed to overcome which was the wall of each respective esophageal pouch and scar tissue that had formed. And so really the way it works is it applies about 4 pounds of pressure between the magnets and that pressure over time gradually compresses the intervening tissue causes ischemia and within about 48 or 72 hours that ischemic tissue stuffs. Then a channel is created between the upper and the lower esophagus. So really it's quite straightforward, we don't have to go back reopen her chest, we don't have to dissect the esophagus. Probably most importantly is we don't have to remove any esophagus that had been induced to grow from her initial operations. So basically it's a purely intraluminal way to canalize the esophagus without having to mobilize, reset, jeopardize the integrity of the remaining esophagus."

Ashley Culver
Media Relations Manager
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Office: 615-343-4640

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