Critical fetal care center brought to Tucson, first of its kind in the Southwest

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 8:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The Center for Fetal Medicine at Banner Health in Tucson is the first center in the Southwest to provide fast diagnoses for pregnant women and their unborn children.

“High-level care in the area where you live is important,” Banner Health director of fetal medicine Ken Liechty said. “Outcomes are better, families don’t have to travel far to get treatment, they’re with their support network.”

Ken Liechty has been providing fetal care across the country for years. He says for some treatment of an unborn child, the sooner, the better.

“Most of the time, we haven’t done that for a lot of surgeries you don’t compare whether surgery or medicine is better,” Liechty said. “This is the first time we actually proved in a trial that operating on a fetus inside the womb has better outcomes for the fetus.”

However, the accessibility of services makes time go by slower than what mothers may need.

“Things we see on a weekly basis some people see once or twice in their whole career,” Liechty said. “There’s nothing more scary to a parent than going to that 20-week ultrasound and found out there’s something wrong and then they’re told ‘well, in a week or two we’ll get you here and they can tell you this about the heart, another week or two we can…’ so you’re just stringing out these appointments. We do it in one day.”

The new Center for Fetal Medicine at Banner brings various team members, including a pediatric surgeon, geneticist, and other specialists, to help not only the parents but the child as well.

“The fetus is a patient too,” Liechty said. “The mom’s a patient but now the fetus is also a patient and we’re pursuing therapies that can either save a fetus’s life or improve or decrease the disabilities they may have after birth because of the disease they have.”

They also provide a social worker and other providers to provide treatment and management strategies.

“It is a stressful time, we know that,” Liechty said. “This is one of the most stressful things you can do to have a fetal intervention for your unborn baby.”

Liechty says this type of medicine is fairly new and is excited for this location to continue to pioneer better treatment and care for residents of Southern Arizona.

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