ATLANTA – The Iraqi infant known as Baby Noor was "doing great" after surgery to treat a birth defect, and she might not need a second operation, her doctor said Tuesday.
A CT scan on the 3-month-old girl showed no dangerous buildup of spinal fluid in her brain, said Kevin McClelland, a spokesman for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Noor al-Zahra was born with spina bifida, in which the backbone and spinal cord do not close before birth. The 3-month-old was brought to the United States for treatment after U.S. troops found her in a poverty-stricken district near Baghdad.
The child will likely remain a paraplegic, but doctors say their goal is to get her well enough so that when she returns to Iraq she will not require a lot of continued care.
Her surgeon, Dr. Roger Hudgins, said Tuesday that she continued to do well after surgery Monday to remove a fluid-filled sac from her back and to position her spinal cord in its proper place.
"She's doing great. She's laying on her tummy to keep the pressure off her back," he said. "She's not smiling yet, I don't blame her because she just had a very big surgery, and soon she'll get her effervescent personality back."
Doctors say she still might need a second surgery Wednesday if spinal fluid builds up overnight inside her brain. A fluid buildup could cause dangerous pressure inside Noor's head.
Most U.S. children who suffer similar conditions commonly receive surgery for a shunt, a plastic tube inserted in the brain to divert fluid to the abdomen, where it's reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
But if there's no buildup, there's no need for surgery, Hudgins said. "The longer we go without putting a shunt in, the less likely she'll need one," he said Wednesday. "We're cautiously optimistic."
Doctors have been hoping to avoid the surgery because shunts require frequent medical attention, which might not be available to Noor in Iraq. If a shunt clogs or breaks, it can be life-threatening.
Baby Noor was discovered several weeks ago by U.S. troops from Georgia's 48th Infantry Brigade while raiding a house in Abu Ghraib. The soldiers noticed paralysis in the baby's legs and what appeared to be a tumor on her back.
The apparent tumor was actually the fluid-filled sac, which contained part of the baby's spinal cord. Doctors said she likely would have died without medical intervention.
One of the soldiers e-mailed a friend in Georgia who is a social worker. They enlisted the help of a variety of organizations, and Noor, her grandmother and her father were brought to the United States late last month.