'Giving Babies and Their Families A Healthy Beginning': The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health Marks Five Years

July 14, 2022


July marks the five-year anniversary for The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, a regional leader in providing integrated care for pregnant patients with fetal complications across the nation.

Since its opening, the Chicago Institute has become the top fetal center in Illinois with the most patients and the best outcomes. Over the past five years, our fetal specialists have provided more than 11,000 consults with patient families and have seen patients from 33 states and 4 countries. Access is broad and far-reaching with same-day appointments for urgent visits and surgeries, if necessary. No patient is turned away.

The Institute has grown tremendously in the past five years, caring for an ever-increasing number of patients in need.

The Regenstein Fetal Health Suite opened in 2020, centralizing multidisciplinary consults and diagnostics. The suite, located inside Lurie Children’s, provides patients with a state-of-the-art, 7,000 square-foot space, equipped with private nesting rooms, integrated fetal ultrasound, echocardiography and MRI, consultation spaces fitted with the latest telemedicine capabilities and direct bridge access to Prentice Women’s Hospital. Its location on the Northwestern Medicine campus makes collaboration, coordination, and continuity of care among the institute’s nurses, social workers, genetic counselors and experts from more than 20 adult and pediatric surgical specialists easier than ever before.

Nearly 200 fetal operations have been performed by this specialized, multidisciplinary team. Many of these operations are new and on the leading edge, underscoring the Institute’s mission to be a pioneer in interventional fetal medicine. In 2020, the Institute became the first fetal center in Illinois to perform and offer an innovative fetoscopic, or minimally invasive, option for spina bifida repair in utero, a procedure that significantly improves recovery and outcome for the mother and the baby. Click here to read some updates about families who have experienced a fetal surgery.

Dr. Aimen Shaaban, fetal surgeon and director of the Institute, said he regularly receives positive updates from families who have undergone a fetal intervention procedure and have made excellent progress. 

“I ask these parents along the way to reflect on what they’ve endured, and they all say, ‘I made the right decision,’” Dr. Shaaban said. “And that’s what it’s about – giving these babies and their families a healthy beginning.” 

Also a leader in improving the diagnosis and treatment of complex fetal conditions, the institute continues to focus on multi-site, longitudinal research with the goal of creating future therapies and better outcomes for conditions such as congenital diaphragmatic hernia, fetal lung lesions and congenital heart defects.

As the culmination of fetal care and translational research in the region, the institute also fosters training of future fetal surgeons, maternal fetal medicine physicians, neonatologists, and medical imaging specialists. The institute offers one of the few fetal surgery fellowships in the United States.

Dr. Shaaban said he hopes to continue to advance the understanding of fetal medicine and become the world leader in the innovation and discovery of fetal congenital disease.

“Ultimately, the quest for a better treatment, a better cure, a better outcome — that is endless,” Dr. Shaaban said. “That can never go away and that is what drives us to do better every year, every day.”