Author: The Fetal Institute

A testament to resilience: The Fetal Institute celebrates its third annual Fetal Reunion

Attendees to The Fetal Reunion 2024

On March 9, 2024, The Fetal Institute proudly held its annual Fetal Reunion 2024. This heartwarming event brought together former patients and their families along with Dr. Ruben Quintero and Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos, founders of The Fetal Institute.

This year marked the third successful collaboration with the Brianna Marie Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides resources, assistance, and advocacy for families navigating the complexities of adverse fetal diagnoses.

“It’s a moment of profound gratitude for the care we provided and the incredible trust our patients and their families placed on us to help them with their complicated pregnancy,” said Dr. Kontopoulos about the significance of the event. “Every miracle baby we see is proof of the collaborative effort between our team and the unwavering determination of these families.”

“The Fetal Institute Reunion is a celebration of life, love, and the extraordinary achievements made possible through advanced fetal medicine, collective care and support.”

“This is our opportunity to meet our patients and their families again, after the pregnancy that brought them to us, and to get to know their babies whom we only knew once as fetuses. It is also a time to reflect upon our limitations and remember those
babies whom we couldn’t help,” added Dr. Quintero. “It is a mighty stimulus for us to
continue to develop new and better ways to help babies before birth.”

On behalf of The Fetal Institute, we extend our sincere appreciation to the Brianna Marie Foundation and all supporters for their invaluable contributions to the success of The Fetal Institute Reunion 2024. With your help, we continue to bring awareness about fetal conditions and fetal therapy.

Check out all the photos from this year’s reunion:

The Fetal Institute featured in new book authored by a patient

Parents Britney and Dakota Paxson with their baby Lily

Treatment of fetal conditions can help provide a second opportunity to a new life. Because of their role in a successful case to reverse Fetal Hydrops, the work of doctors at The Fetal Institute in Miami was featured in the new book, A Mustard Seed of Faith: How hope conquered all odds, authored by former patient Brittney Paxson.

Paxson’s heartwarming tale captures the remarkable journey of bringing the miracle of life into their family after receiving the devastating news of their daughter’s diagnosis of fetal hydrops — a rare and fatal illness with slim chances of survival. Through their unconditional love and faith, Brittney and Dakota Paxson found the strength to do all they could to find care for their little girl.

Screenshot 2023-07-03 at 11.12.28 AM

 "After initial shock and devastation lifted, they knew it was time to start fighting for their baby and doing all they could to bring her home. This true story takes you through a journey of two new parents and the fight for their child."

From a fateful diagnosis, to triumph over adversity

Non-immune fetal hydrops (NIHF) is an abnormal accumulation of fluid within two or more compartments of a fetus’s chest. It can have various causes including infections, genetics, chromosomal abnormalities, and more.

A prolonged accumulation of fluid during the pregnancy can compress the lungs and prevent them from developing normally (pulmonary hypoplasia). If the baby cannot be oxygenated, it can result in death.

For Brittney and Dakota Paxson, receiving the diagnosis at 18.5 weeks of gestation was crushing.

“When a condition like NIHF becomes very significant, the chances of survival decrease and an early intervention can save a baby’s life,” says Dr. Ruben Quintero, fetal medicine specialist at The Fetal Institute. “We are immensely grateful for the opportunity we get through our work to be a part of successful stories like Brittney and Dakota’s, and we are glad that they are able to enjoy life with a healthy daughter as a result.”

Learn more about fetal hydrops and other pleural and pericardial effusions.

For the Paxson family, A Mustard Seed of Faith stands as a celebration of life and a testament to the resilience that comes from love and faith in the darkest of times. For the Fetal Institute, it is a reminder of the profound impact that compassionate and innovative fetal medicine can have on the lives of patients.

“Dealing with unexpected and potentially life-threatening conditions during a pregnancy truly requires strength and hope,” says Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos, fetal medicine specialist at The Fetal Institute. “We are proud of Brittney and her family for their resilience to navigate these challenges, and for sharing a journey that will inspire many other families globally.”

Podcast: What treatments are available for spina bifida?

What treatments are available for spina bifida?
0:00 / 0:00
What treatments are available for spina bifida?
Dr. Ruben Quintero, Founder and Fetal Medicine Specialist at The Fetal Institute in Coral Gables, FL

Your questions about spina bifida answered by fetal medicine specialist Dr. Ruben Quintero

Spina bifida is one of the most common fetal conditions that results in birth defects, and until recently, there wasn’t much that could be done to help babies until they were born. Dr. Ruben Quintero is a fetal medicine specialist at The Fetal Institute in Miami and in this podcast episode, he talks about advancements in the treatment of spina bifida, including minimally-invasive spina bifida treatments performed while the baby is in utero.

Dr. Quintero answers common questions about spina bifida so that families know their options, including:

  • What is spina bifida?
  • What treatments are available for spina bifida?
  • Can babies have surgery on spina bifida before they are born?
  • What should parents do if they receive a spina bifida diagnosis for their baby?

Tune in to the podcast and reach out to The Fetal Institute via our contact form or call us at (786) 971-2303 to learn more.

Podcast: What is fetal therapy?

What are Fetal Therapies?
0:00 / 0:00
What is fetal therapy?
Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos, Founder and Fetal Medicine Specialist at The Fetal Institute in Coral Gables, FL
A podcast episode with fetal medicine specialist Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos

Did you know that babies can have surgery while they are still in utero? The field of fetal medicine and fetal therapy is a fast-growing one, with more options for mothers facing grim fetal diagnosis during their pregnancies.

Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos of The Fetal Institute in Miami is a pioneer in fetal medicine and on this podcast episode, Dr. Kontopoulos answers the questions:

  • What are fetal therapies?
  • Can babies have surgery before they are born?
  • What fetal conditions can be treated with fetal surgery?
  • Is fetal surgery non-invasive?
  • What can I expect during the fetal surgery process?
  • What should families know if they receive a grim fetal diagnosis?

Tune in to the podcast and reach out to The Fetal Institute via our contact form or call us at (786) 971-2303 to learn more.

Percutaneous mini-laparotomy fetoscopic treatment of Open Spina Bifida

Percutaneous mini-laparotomy fetoscopic treatment of Open Spina Bifida

Open spina bifida develops when the spine fails to close at some point along its length during fetal development.

Our group has worked on developing a minimally-invasive technique (so-called ‘keyhole surgery’) for the antenatal treatment of MMC, translating an experience of more than 10 years in the animal model to a viable clinical application. The technique does not require a hysterotomy (uterine incision). Instead, small instruments are placed into the womb through tiny incisions, and with the use of partial CO2 insufflation, the open spina bifida is repaired. This approach minimizes the risks of the surgery for the mother while preserving the potential benefits of the in-utero repair for the fetus.

Institute for Surgical Excellence Announces Eftichia Kontopoulos, M.D., Ph.D. Appointment to the Advisory Board of Directors

Surgical Excellence banner

WASHINGTONThe Institute for Surgical Excellence (ISE) today announced the appointment of Eftichia Kontopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., to its Advisory Board of Directors. ISE is a non-profit organization that convenes leading innovators, hospital executives, and surgeons to develop consistent, teachable and measurable surgical standards that directly improve patient outcomes.


Dr. Kontopoulos is an internationally recognized Fetal Surgeon. After completing a research fellowship at Harvard University, she conducted her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology (Ob/Gyn) at the Robert Wood Johnson University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, she continued there with her fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine. Subsequently, she served in the Ob/Gyn and Maternal Fetal Medicine Department at the University of South Florida, where she received formal training in Fetal Surgery and Fetal Therapy. She is double boarded in Ob/Gyn and Maternal Fetal Medicine. Currently, Dr. Kontopoulos practices at The Fetal Institute Miami, which she co-founded in 2017 providing consulting and management of high-risk pregnancies through specialized treatments. 


“Dr. Kontopoulos will be an invaluable addition to the ISE Advisory Board of Directors as she will bring her shared vision of improving patient care and experience, and advancing surgical excellence,” said Dr. Martin Martino, ISE Executive Board Member and Gynecologic Oncologist.


“I am very honored to be part of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Surgical Excellence. Over the past twenty years, advancements in surgical techniques and technologies have provided the possibility of successful treatment of fetal conditions that previously were considered incurable. I am a firm believer that through solid research and proper surgical inventions, we can change the lives of our patients and their families. I am happy to share my vision with that of ISE.” said Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos, M.D., Ph.D..


Together with her team, Dr. Kontopoulos has performed several pioneering surgeries and World’s first procedures. Dr. Kontopoulos has published chapters, books, and multiple peer-reviewed articles. Dr. Kontopoulos is a frequently invited speaker on Fetal Therapy, Fetal Surgery, and Advanced Endoscopic Surgical techniques in National and International meetings.


Robotic surgery is transforming the healthcare landscape. With precision and perfection, surgeons can challenge traditional operating procedures by reducing pain, risk, and recovery time.  Today, minimally invasive techniques are primarily used in gynecology, urology, thoracic, and cardiac surgery.  ISE looks ahead to an exciting year filled with surgical milestones. 

#  #  #

ISE is a 501(c)(3) public charity, whose mission is to create lasting solutions for complex healthcare problems related to emerging technologies, with the ultimate goal to improve patient care and outcomes. ISE utilizes a systems-based approach (collective impact model) to bring together key stakeholders from a variety of sectors to identify issues, set clearly defined goals, facilitate collaboration, determine and fill gaps, and better inform health care consumers. ISE is embarking on a series of transformational projects with respect to the role and standards of surgical technologies, with the first and current focus on Robotic Surgery.  As part of this project, ISE continues to manage and develop the Robotic Training Network (RTN) through participation with hospitals across the country, and research-focused engagement with the Fundamentals of Robotics Surgery (FRS). 

Doctors at The Fetal Institute, Miami are conducting a clinical trial on the fetoscopic repair of open spina bifida

Doctors at The Fetal Institute, Miami are conducting a clinical trial on the fetoscopic repair of open spina bifida

Open spina bifida (OSB), a birth defect that occurs in approximately 1 in 1,500 births in the United States, results from failure of the spine to close at some point along its length during fetal development. The defect leads to injury and loss of spinal cord tissue at and below the defect. Research showed that antenatal treatment of OSB via open fetal surgery, which requires opening the maternal abdomen and uterus, can improve the outcome of babies affected with OSB. However, the mother is at risk for rupture of the uterus (uterine rupture) and requires delivery by cesarean section for the affected pregnancy and for any subsequent pregnancy.

Doctors at The Fetal Institute, Miami and the USFetus, in collaboration with colleagues in Brazil, have developed a minimally-invasive (fetoscopic) technique to treat fetuses with OSB, which does not require opening the uterus. This allows the mother to deliver vaginally and avoid the risk of uterine rupture. The doctors are currently conducting a clinical trial to validate this new fetoscopic technique. For further information, please click here.

We’re honored to have Dr. Kontopoulos on The TTTS Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board

We're honored to have Dr. Kontopoulos on the TTTS Foundation's Medical Advisory Board

I respect and share the mission of The TTTS Foundation of providing babies and mothers in need with the best possible options for treatment.

Their website serves as the first point of information for families seeking treatment for TTTS, including TAPS, SIUGR and TRAP.

The TTTS Foundation does amazing work! I have admired over the years how much they have helped families in need and how effectively they have helped spread awareness. I share in the passion of The TTTS Foundation in helping families affected by these conditions.

I am truly honored and very pleased to be a member of the Medical Advisory Board of The TTTS Foundation and help to fulfill their mission.

Dr. Eftichia V. Kontopoulos
TTTS Foundation
Medical Advisory Board