Risky procedures save life of baby born with malformation in brain

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A Kansas City couple's baby was born with a severe malformation that was starving his brain of blood and putting a tremendous strain on his heart. Something had to be done to save Baby Gage's life.

Gage Weber rests peacefully in the University of Kansas Hospital, but nothing was peaceful about his start in life. An ultrasound late in pregnancy led to an MRI which revealed a dark spot in Gage's brain.

"It was so rare I didn't know what to think," his mother, Kelly Phillips said.

She learned that Gage had a Vein of Galen malformation, a tangled mass of veins supplied by an artery.

"One, the brain is essentially starved of blood and two, veins aren't used to getting the kind of pressure you see inside an artery," Dr. Alan Reeves, an interventional radiologist, said.

Dr. Reeves hoped to wait until Gage was older to operate, but the baby's heart couldn't take the strain of the pressure.

"The outcome was my son was gonna die, so we had to do it," Phillips said.

So just a week after Gage was born, Dr. Reeves went in through the groin and snaked catheters up into brain vessels that are no bigger than a thread. They're delicate vessels that can easily tear.

"So it was an operation that was long and potentially dangerous," Dr. Reeves said.

He placed 35 tiny metal coils to block blood flow to the abnormal vessels and create normal flow in the brain. But it wasn't enough. A day later, he placed 35 more. The strain on Gage's heart was finally relieved.

"They saved my son's life. It's awesome," Phillips said.

It's still unknown what effect the lack of blood flow to the brain will have on Gage's development. His neonatologist says 60 percent of babies with the condition have near-normal outcomes.

"Particularly for Gage, looking at his neurological condition, we are very hopeful," Dr. Krishna Dummula said.

Phillips says the family is taking it day to day. They're grateful for each day with their baby.

Gage is now three and a half weeks old. Dr. Reeves says Gage is by far the youngest patient he's ever had.

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