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Utah Fetal Center: High-Risk Pregnancy Care in one Place

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Utah Fetal Center: High-Risk Pregnancy Care in one Place

Jan 29, 2021

High-risk pregnancies require a team of experts to address both child and mother's needs before, during, and after delivery. Dr. Stephen Fenton is the founder and director of the Utah Fetal Center at Primary Children's Hospital. Dr. Fenton talks about some of the high-risk conditions the center treats, how it helps coordinate all aspects of care, and what to expect as a patient.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: We're with Dr. Stephen Fenton. He is the founder and director of the Utah Fetal Center at Primary Children's Hospital. And it is for women who have high-risk pregnancies due to a congenital anomaly with the child. There is kind of a way things used to be done. And now there's a way things are done at the Utah Fetal Center, Primary Children's Hospital, which is a much better way. Dr. Fenton, first of all, you're the founder and the director. You came in and you said, "I want to start this center."Why did you say that?

Dr. Fenton: I don't want anyone to ever think or believe that what was happening before wasn't being done to the best of its ability because it certainly was. All of these conditions were being cared for before. But the reality is it was kind of done in what I would term a physician-centered approach. So oftentimes that would require multiple clinic visits because they were separate clinics in each of the physician's clinics. And you can imagine how frustrating and how hard that must have been for that mom to kind of shoulder that burden all on her own.

Interviewer: It was a very stressful time.

Dr. Fenton: Very stressful time.

Interviewer: Just to coordinate her care kind of.

Dr. Fenton: I mean, and during all that time, of course, worried about her unborn child. And so what we've done is we've kind of shifted it from this physician-centered care to what I term patient-centered care with a multidisciplinary approach. So we, over the last five years, have put together a multidisciplinary team of all of these specialists that care for the child and for the anomaly. In addition, we've added adult specialists, so maternal fetal medicine or high-risk OBs that care for the mom, all in one place. We didn't have adult providers at the Children's Hospital. Now we have these adult MFM providers who help care for these moms. We also added a coordinator. We've added nurse coordinators that actually help the mom wade through all of this, and ancillary staff, such as a social worker, who can also help with the non-clinical aspects. We are now all in the same place. Instead of being in our individual silos, if you will, we're all located together where we can look at the images together, where we can talk about it, and where we can come up with a care plan not only for the mom until baby is delivered, but also for the child after delivery.

Interviewer: What is the objective of the center?

Dr. Fenton: We want to make sure mom and baby first have the right diagnosis. It's much easier to help the parent learn what the condition is and start understanding what the treatment, if any, will entail before the child is born. Now that's one aspect. The other aspect is some of these kids need intervention before they're born. And in order to do that, it's very specialized. It requires a team and it requires being able to take the mom to proper diagnosis and from diagnosis to intervention, and then from intervention to delivery safely. And you can't do that without proper infrastructure, and the Utah Fetal Center is that infrastructure.

Interviewer: Can you give me an example of a couple of the common conditions that you would require that would require this multidisciplinary team?

Dr. Fenton: Congenital diaphragmatic hernia is one that comes to mind, myelomeningocele, that's another word for spinal bifida, CPAM or congenital pulmonary airway malformation also known as congenital lung lesion, atresias, intestinal atresias, omphalocele, gastroschisis. These are all things that are surgical too. We oftentimes see kids that don't necessarily require surgery. So some of the genetic disorders like trisomy 21. We also see kids that have neurologic issues, so brain malformations that won't necessarily require intervention, but will require a coordinated care with multiple providers.

Interviewer: What does that initial consultation entail when they come to you? What does that look like?

Dr. Fenton: In the morning, they oftentimes will undergo an ultrasound and consultation with one of the maternal-fetal medicine physicians that work at the Utah Fetal Center. Dependent on what the original diagnosis is, and oftentimes we have already received outside imaging from the referring providers and reviewed it, they might also undergo a fetal MRI, and that fetal MRI will give us even more detail, especially when we can compare it to the ultrasound that happens on that same day. It's read by the fetal radiologists that work in the center. And then usually we give them a little bit of a break. They go to lunch, etc., and then come back in the afternoon or early afternoon, and there, they will see the specialist, the sub-specialist that will ultimately care for their child.

Interviewer: If a patient wasn't referred and they believe that the Utah Fetal Center is the place that they would like to go, are they able to call?

Dr. Fenton: Absolutely. They can go to our website, and self-refer. We really want to help these parents get through this very, very difficult time. We understand that there are a lot of providers out there that are doing a portion of this, and we certainly appreciate all that they are doing. We are not looking to just assume all care of these moms because we know that a lot of their care can be delivered close to home, but we do feel like it's very, very beneficial to start that coordination of care early so that we can help the parents understand what is happening, obtain expectations on the treatment plan, as well as understand the treatments involved and then initiate that plan early, and in the long run we know that doing so with the help of the many providers, not only here at the University of Utah and Primary Children's Hospital, but across the state will allow us to do that.