News & Events

Rare neck condition diagnosed and treated

11/08/2019

Alexander Biddell playing with Dr. Marston's glassesEleven-month-old Alexander Biddell was born with a rare condition that caused the central region of his neck to not develop properly. Initially, doctors in South Carolina couldn’t figure out why.

Looking for answers

After lengthy research, Alexander Marston, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Tufts Children's Hospital at Tufts Medical Center, assembled a team to him figure out Alexander's condition. They discovered that he had a congenital midline cervical cleft, a developmental anomaly of the anterior neck.

“We didn’t know what it was until Dr. Marston told us a few days ago,” said Andrew Biddell, Alexander’s father and a U.S. Marine. “I think it’s just so rare that nobody knew what it was.”

About his rare diagnosis

“The condition disrupts the neck from fusing in the midline leaving abnormal tissue and contracted skin,” said Dr. Marston. “It is rare—about 200 cases have been reported— and can be corrected with excision and a reconstructive procedure that takes about four hours,” he said.

“I had seen it once before,” said Dr. Marston. “There are case reports, but no large studies in the literature.”

Journey for treatment

Dr. Marston and the Biddell family.As much as Dr. Marston wanted to help Alexander, his journey was taking him from Charleston to Boston. The Biddell family quickly realized they trusted Dr. Marston to perform the surgery and followed him nearly 1,000 miles from South Carolina to Tufts Children's Hospital. 

“Even in Charleston we felt very comfortable with him,” said Melba Biddell, Alexander's mom. “When we found out he was leaving, we walked out of the office and said to each other ‘we wish we could go to Boston.’ The next thing we knew we were following him here.”

Dr. Marston operated on Alexander on the morning of Oct. 25. That night, the Alexander was playing and dancing in his crib. He is expected to make a full recovery.

“When you’re a doctor or a surgeon, interactions like this remind you how much trust is placed in you,” said Dr. Marston. “It’s an honor when a family trusts you like that.”