Maternal and Fetal Medicine Research at the Colorado Fetal Care Center
Our research at the Colorado Fetal Care Center is driven by our belief that all children, even those not yet born, deserve the best chance at a brighter future. Through collaboration in ongoing multicenter trials, we're able to:
- Offer some of the most innovative fetal therapies available today
- Continually advance the standard of care for maternal and fetal medicine
- Develop new therapies across the perinatal spectrum, from obstetrics to neonatology
Our research, in partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, allows us to continually advance the standard of care for and treatments of infants, expecting mothers and high-risk pregnancies.
To perform EXIT to pacemaker for fetal heart block
In research funding
Square feet of research space
Current research has identified what causes a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. After searching for a solution, surgeons discovered a very small balloon called fetoscopic tracheal balloon occlusion. Learn how this helps in the growth of lungs.
Maternal and fetal medicine advancements
We're known around the world for groundbreaking innovations in fetal care research that are revolutionizing the care and treatment of both mother and child in high-risk pregnancies. Some of our team's most significant advancements include:
Revolutionizing myelomeningocele (MMC) treatment and repair
Our fetal surgeons are advancing and innovating prenatal treatment and repair for fetuses with myelomeningocele. In our efforts to improve MMC patients' quality of life, reduce complications and obtain better outcomes, our researchers have made several significant contributions, innovating the way fetal surgeons approach MMC. These efforts include:
- Evaluated long-term flow patterns in the ductus arteriosus before, during and after fetal MMC repair to potentially reduce the incidence and/or severity of ductus arteriosus (DA) constriction and fetal cardiac dysfunction during open fetal surgery.
- In an effort to reduce the need for shunting, our fetal surgeons became the first in the world to use 3D printing to prefabricate MMC patches before surgery.
- Rony Marwan, MD, and his collaborator Daewon Park, PhD, bioengineered a minimally invasive alternative to open fetal surgery for spina bifida patients.
Improving outcomes for fetuses twin-to-twin (TTTS) transfusion syndrome
We are one of the country's highest volume fetal centers treating twin-twin transfusion syndrome. Our multidisciplinary team of maternal fetal medicine specialists, specialized physicians, fetal cardiologists and pediatric fetal surgeons collaborate to improve outcomes for laser photocoagulation, increase survival and decrease prematurity for babies with TTTS.
In an effort to guide future improvements in patient care, Michael Zaretsky, MD, collaborates with the North American Fetal Therapy Network (NAFTN) in managing a national registry of the complications and outcomes of monochorionic twin pregnancies.
Optimizing the health and delivery of babies with congenital heart disease (CHD)
Our work places us at the forefront of fetal cardiology and makes us leaders in caring for new lives. The Colorado Fetal Care Center team completed the first-ever Ex Utero Intrapartum Treatment (EXIT) to ventricular pacing procedure and continues to lead in innovative ways:
- We are pioneering new techniques in regenerative medicine, including engineering a heart patch made of an infant's own tissue to improve outcomes for babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Using amniotic fluid collected at delivery, our team aims to create beating heart cells that can be used for future surgical repairs.
- In the Heart Sounds at Home clinical trial, our researchers were the first to initiate fetal home doppler monitoring in the detection of fetal heart block for positive anti-SSA mothers.
- Lisa Howley, MD, and Bettina Cuneo, MD, participated in a multicenter study aiming to increase parental education and improve transparency between clinical teams and parents. Using a series of questions developed by the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association (PCHA), we provide institution-specific answers for families regarding pediatric cardiac intervention outcomes, as well as short- and long-term expectations for neonates and infants with CHD.
Pioneering new technologies and treatments for babies with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH)
Our Colorado Fetal Care Center is a national referral site for CDH, as the neonates with CDH who are discharged from our NICU have some of the best outcomes in the nation.
- Our fetal surgeons conducted a clinical trial to improve lung growth for fetuses with CDH using fetoscopic tracheal balloon occlusion (FETO). We consistently see improved outcomes for patients with severe left-sided CDH.
- In a multi-center study, our researchers standardized prenatal assessment of risk-stratification for fetuses with CDH.
"Every day is a good day on the job where parents are trusting me to take care of their most prized possession."
Kenneth Liechty, MD
Director, Pediatric Surgery Basic and Translational Research
Learn about Dr. Liechty's research
Ongoing research in maternal and fetal medicine at Children's Colorado
Our researchers focus on improving care for the fetus, as well as ensuring mothers experience fewer complications from fetal therapies, labor and delivery.
Bringing together the brightest minds to innovate HLHS treatments
As one of only five centers in the country – and the only center in the region – participating in Mayo Clinic's HLHS Consortium, we are leading the way to find solutions for patients with HLHS. Through our Fetal Cardiology Program, pregnant women with a fetal HLHS diagnosis have the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking clinical trials studying the use of cell-based regenerative therapy to transform the lives of their children born with HLHS.
Reducing the complications of mothers managing high-risk pregnancies
Our fetal surgery team constantly strives to reduce complications; following the groundbreaking Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS), our fetal surgeons developed a modified hysterotomy closure technique that may reduce obstetric morbidity associated with prenatal MMC repair and other open fetal surgeries.
Other ongoing research efforts to improve the outcomes and reduce complications for expecting mothers include:
- Exploring changes in maternal and fetal blood flow during fetal surgeries, labor and delivery to better predict possible hemorrhage or dangerous changes in mom's blood pressure.
What our maternal and fetal medicine research means for babies and expecting moms managing high-risk pregnancies
Our research at the Colorado Fetal Care Center aims to improve outcomes for babies with the highest-risk and rare fetal conditions.
At the heart of our research is a focus on each child's long-term quality of life, which influences everything we do and results in:
- A better standard of living for our patients – babies, twins, moms and multiples
- Improved care for the fetus
- More innovative treatment options
- Fewer complications for mothers from fetal therapies, labor and delivery
Our research means that here, you'll find expertise for the rarest conditions, and a multidisciplinary team dedicated to improving the outlook for our unborn patients and the mothers who carry them.
Fetal tracheal occlusion (TO) is an experimental approach used to drive accelerated lung growth in fetuses with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Despite its effectiveness, it was previously unknown how TO affected the heterogeneous metabolic zones within fetal lungs—until now.
Published in the April issue of Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy, Dr. Ahmed Marwan presented findings showing, for the first time, an understanding of the metabolic machinery that is crucial to support lung growth. This research indicates that there is heterogeneity in the response of rabbit fetal lungs to tracheal occlusion, which may explain the clinical heterogeneity we are seeing in real life with congenital diaphragmatic hernia. The study demonstrates the unique heterogeneous topological zones found in fetal lungs following tracheal occlusion for CDH, as well as a wide variation of metabolism between zones.
Read the full research paper from Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy.
Children's Colorado in the news
September 9, 2018
Thanks to a special partnership between Children’s Colorado and Mayo Clinic, baby Calista became the first patient in Colorado to receive regenerative therapy for a rare congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Children’s Colorado is the only hospital in the region offering access to this groundbreaking clinical trial.
June 27, 2017
Debbie and Jennifer Stevenson are grateful to the Colorado Fetal Care Center (CFCC) and the care they received for their son, Eli, who was diagnosed with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH).
The Denver Post
June 18, 2017
The Colorado Fetal Care Center hosted a reunion for several families who have benefitted from their care for conditions including pre- and postnatal intervention for Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, spina bifida and congenital diaphragmatic hernia.
December 20, 2016
For parents Charise and Mike Walters, this Christmas is one they will always treasure. Twins, Tommy and Emily were born last year, six weeks early; Tommy went home for Christmas, but Emily did not. She was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia and was given only about a 20 percent chance of survival. She beat the odds and today, both Tommy and Emily are doing well, and will spend their first Christmas together.
Stapleton Front Porch
October 1, 2015
The expert care team at the Colorado Fetal Care Center helped save identical twins Ciela and Mila, whose parents live in Denver’s Lowry neighborhood. The girls developed twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome while in utero, but today they have no evidence of any complications during pregnancy.
The Denver Post
July 1, 2015
For one couple, the hope that fetal surgery offered their daughter was the reason they turned to fetal surgery at the Colorado Fetal Care Center. Today, little Emma has proven a tough survivor, with help and support from her parents and a fighting chance from the fetal care team at Children's Hospital Colorado.