Pediatric surgeon pioneered technique that saved baby’s life

Baby in mother's arms

The first surgeon in the world to perform a minimally invasive surgery to repair an esophagus with a large gap, just saved a little boy’s life in Denver.

Dr. Steve Rothenberg, chief of pediatric surgery at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, performed the surgery on baby Luke Allen on December 7, 2017. The top of Luke’s esophagus wasn’t connected to the bottom, and he was unable to swallow. It’s called long gap esophageal atresia.

Back in 1999, Dr. Rothenberg, the world leader in minimally invasive surgery for babies, performed the first surgery to fix the gap using small incisions. Before Dr. Rothenberg’s approach, surgeons would use a large incision and open the baby’s chest to fix the gap. Those large incisions created many problems, including an increased risk of infection and growth issues as the babies aged.

Luke’s mother, Kylie, told Denver CBS News that she couldn’t imagine seeing her child opened up like that.  Thankfully, she later found Dr. Rothenberg online.

“We mobilized the two ends and then stretched them together,” said Rothenberg on local News4. “In Luke’s case, we were able to overcome the gap and get them together.”

Dr. Rothenberg uses this minimally invasive approach to fix the esophagus in babies, more than any other surgeon in the world. It’s a tricky procedure and some pediatric surgeons still approach it with a large incision.

He and his partners at Rocky Mountain Pediatric Surgery, know the minimally invasive approach is the best for these tiny patients.

Baby Luke’s procedure was a success and he is now home for the new year. To meet baby Luke and his mom, and see Dr. Rothenberg talk about his approach, please watch here.

Woman holding baby in hospital room

Kylie Dorsey and son Luke in the hospital’s NICU. 

Woman posing with male doctor

Kylie Dorsey, Luke’s mother, pictured with Dr. Steve Rothenberg.

Dr. Steve Rothenberg is the chief of pediatric surgery at HealthONE’s Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare. He is asked to teach this technique all over the world, and has performed the surgery in 20 countries. 

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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