Rare operation saves mum and new-born son

King's heart surgeon had only seen a case like this on three occasions in his 20-year career

Margaret with her son and partner, and the team who cared for them

A heavily pregnant woman from Folkestone in Kent has undergone a rare emergency operation to deliver her baby and repair a tear in her aorta to save both their lives.

The time-critical procedure took place at King’s College Hospital in London after Margaret Wang, who was 37 weeks pregnant, became unwell at home on the night of Thursday 22 June.

Ms Wang’s partner, Peter Warren, called the NHS 111 after she woke in the middle of the night with excruciating head and back pain. The helpline advised the couple to make their way to hospital without delay.

Medics at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford carried out a CT scan, which identified a tear in Ms Wang’s aorta – the major artery that carries blood out of the heart and around the body. An aortic tear – also known as a dissection – can prove fatal if not detected and repaired quickly.

As a matter of urgency, Ms Wang was sent via blue-light ambulance with her husband, a midwife and a doctor to King’s College Hospital, which is a specialised cardiac centre in the treatment of aortic disease. When she arrived, a team of obstetricians, paediatricians, cardiothoracic surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists were waiting to get her into the operating theatre.

Once under general anaesthetic, the obstetricians worked quickly to perform a caesarean section and they delivered a baby boy. The baby required help with breathing and was put on a ventilator by the paediatrician. The cardiothoracic team, led by Olaf Wendler, Professor of Cardiac Surgery, then opened Ms Wang’s chest to replace part of her aorta.

Forty-two year old Margaret, who is originally from Los Angeles but has lived in the UK for the last 11 years, is now making an excellent recovery in hospital. Her baby son, who is yet to be named, is off the ventilator and is also doing well. She hopes they will be able to return home in the coming days to be reunited with Peter and their other son, two-year-old Wolfie.

Talking about her experience, Ms Wang said, “It all happened so quickly. I have high blood pressure but never thought this could happen.
“When I arrived at King’s, I was texting my family in the United States. I explained that I was undergoing an emergency heart operation and I didn’t know what the outcome would be. I told them I loved them - it was a very emotional time. At that point, Professor Wendler told me that I was going in to the operating theatre.

“The team operated for five hours to deliver my son and save my life. I can’t thank them enough for the amazing care they provided that night and continue to deliver to me and my son.

“The NHS is a precious resource. We have access to these amazing experts who do everything they can to save lives. We are very lucky indeed.”

Professor Wendler, who was called in to King’s to perform the live-saving operation, added, “In situations like this, time is absolutely critical. Once the baby was born we had a small window of time to repair the aortic dissection and prevent a catastrophic bleed.

“Pregnancy can make the tissues in the body softer, but for the aorta to tear like this is extremely rare. In my 20-year career, I’ve only seen aortic dissection in pregnant women on three occasions.

“I’m very proud that the whole team at King’s came together to provide the very best care for Margaret and her baby. This is the strength of the NHS and why we love our jobs.”

For further information please contact:
Karen Welsh
Acting Head of Communications
Extension: +44 (0)20 3299 3850

Notes to editors

1. King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the UK’s largest and busiest teaching hospitals, training over 900 dentists, 750 doctors and 300 nurses every year. The Trust is recognized internationally for its work in liver disease and transplantation, neurosciences, cardiac, haemato-oncology, stroke and major trauma. On 1 October 2013, King’s took over the running of the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley and Orpington Hospital, as well as some services at Beckenham Beacon and Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup. The new enlarged organisation has over 10,500 staff and provides over 1 million patient contacts a year. 9,000 babies are delivered by our hospitals each year, and over 750 patients come to our Emergency Departments every day. For more information, please visit the website. You can also support the work of King’s College Hospital at www.togetherwecan.org.uk

2. King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering collaboration between King’s College London, and Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts.

King’s Health Partners is one of only six Department of Health-designated AHSCs in England and brings together an unrivalled range and depth of clinical and research expertise, spanning both physical and mental health. Our combined strengths will drive improvements in care for patients, allowing them to benefit from breakthroughs in medical science and receive leading edge treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Our partnership brings together...

  • three of the UK’s leading NHS Foundation Trusts;
  • one of the top 30 universities in the world;
  • services provided over 225 locations, including seven hospitals and community and mental health centres;
  • 2.2 million patient contacts each year;
  • 31,000 staff;
  • 25,000 students;
  • a combined annual turnover of £2.8bn.

... to advance health and wellbeing by integrating world-class research, care and teaching.

3. At King’s College Hospital we fundraise for the best in treatment, research and health education, leading-edge equipment and improving well-being in our communities. By uniting doctors, nurses, researchers and academics with our supporters and volunteers we can provide the best patient care that goes above and beyond. Find out more and support us at togetherwecan.org.uk