New surgery offered in Lafayette

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Chester Alleman holds up his 17-month-old grandson Collin Landry at Women's and Children's Hospital's Media Day Thursday in Lafayette. Collin underwent cranial surgery at the hospital.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Chester Alleman holds up his 17-month-old grandson Collin Landry at Women's and Children's Hospital's Media Day Thursday in Lafayette. Collin underwent cranial surgery at the hospital.

A new specialty team at Women’s & Children’s Hospital has begun operating on infants and toddlers who need surgery to correct the premature closure of their soft spots that could lead to developmental delays or even blindness.

The condition is called craniosynostosis, and though it’s rare, the hospital has performed 11 craniofacial surgeries since September, said Dr. Hugo St. Hilaire, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specializes in craniofacial surgery.

In the same time frame, the hospital’s new craniofacial program has seen between five to eight patients in its monthly clinic for a diagnosis, St. Hilaire said.

Not all patients need surgery — some may get help through positional molding procedures, St. Hiliare said. Some patients younger than six months old may also be candidates for endoscopic surgery that is less invasive and requires the child to wear a helmet to guide skull growth, he said.

Prior to Women’s & Children’s creating the program, families had to travel to Houston or New Orleans for the procedure, he said.

St. Hilaire shared details of the program Thursday during Women’s & Children’s Hospital’s annual Media Event. The event showcases hospital programs and milestones in the hospital’s past 30 years in Lafayette such as 75,000 births as of May. The event also honored the hospital’s first patient and baby: Patricia Fontenot and her daughter, Christine.

Another special guest was Collin Landry, now 17 months old, the first patient to undergo craniofacial surgery at the hospital.

His blond hair hides the zig-zag scar where the scalpel cut him from ear to ear in September.

Collin’s parents first noticed signs that something wasn’t right after he was born, his mother, Dawn Landry, said.

“His dad noticed that his nose was slightly crooked and then he wouldn’t turn to me,” she said. “I felt like he couldn’t see.”

A follow-up at the pediatrician proved the baby couldn’t follow objects with his eyes, which led Landry to seek out a neurologist. An MRI showed the sutures — or soft spot in Collin’s head which enables his skull to grow in tandem with his brain’s development — had closed and created developmental issues impacting his vision.

Collin had a five-hour surgery Sept. 11, performed by St. Hilaire and pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Darric Baty. The doctors opened the part of the 8-month-old’s skull encasing his brain and removed some of the bones, carefully reshaped them and put them back with dissolvable screws and plates.

On Thursday, Collin doled out high-fives and at moments, toddled away from his grandfather, Chester Alleman.

His mother said she noticed a change in his demeanor almost immediately after the surgery.

“It was almost like it was a relief for him,” she said. “He was relaxed and more playful.”

That playful progress continues, she said, as the toddler dropped her car keys and set his attention on a large, colorful toy phone instead.