Newborn Surgery Makes Medical Center History

Hernia repairs are commonplace these days, but for a premature newborn, the procedure is highly specialized and can only be performed in hospitals equipped with specially trained surgeons and leading-edge technology.

Just last month, the first neonatal surgery in Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center history was performed on a baby born seven to eight weeks premature. The baby was born with an inguinal hernia, fairly common in premature babies, occurring in 13% of premature births, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The procedure was a success and the baby is home and thriving.

Timothy J. Regan, MD

“We are so grateful to collaborate with Nemours Children’s Health System to offer highly specialized pediatric surgical care to the babies, children and families in our care,” said Timothy J. Regan, MD, Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center President and Lakeland Regional Health Chief Medical Officer. “Through the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children, we are able to to ensure our tiniest and most fragile patients have a bright future.”

Dr. Adela Casas-Melley, a Pediatric Surgeon and Department of Surgery Chair with Nemours Children’s Health System, performed the laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair, which takes only minutes to perform.

“If we had not been able to do this procedure here at Lakeland Regional Health, the baby was going to have to be transferred to Orlando to have the procedure done prior to going home,” said Dr. Casas.

Adela Casas-Melley, MD

While a baby is in utero, the testicles descend through an open hole to the scrotum area. Sometimes, that hole doesn’t close if a baby is born prematurely, which is easy to recognize by a groin-area bulge upon childbirth, particularly when the child cries, coughs or stands. To close this hole, a surgeon inserts a 5-millimeter camera through the belly button and then inserts a needle near the hernia. The needle is able to grab the sac to quickly close the hernia. Leaving an inguinal hernia unrepaired increases the risk that the intestines could become stuck in the hernia hole, called an incarcerated hernia. This requires immediate care.

The surgery is fairly routine, with the most difficult part of surgery coming off of the breathing machine, Dr. Casas explained. Because a premature baby’s lungs are often not fully developed yet, weaning off of the anesthesia can sometimes take 24 to 48 hours.

Most babies recover well from the surgery and, barring any other complications, can go home one to two days following the procedure.

Symptoms of an inguinal hernia:

  • Bulge in the groin area that is present when the child is straining, crying, coughing or in an upright position.
  • Swelling in the groin area or discoloration of the bulging area. This can indicate an incarcerated hernia and needs immediate care.


Discover more about Polk County’s only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Learn about Lakeland Regional Health’s collaboration with Nemours Children’s Health System.