YOUR HEALTH: How poppy seed oil saved the life of a newborn

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PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – Cortney Johnson is lucky that her doctors knew her unborn baby might have serious problems after birth.

When Courtney was pregnant, her 20-week fetal ultrasound revealed lymphatic fluid pooling in child's chest.

"We know that kids who have that finding in-utero, after birth, are going to have a certain kind of lymphatic abnormality," explained Dr. Yoav Dori, and interventional cardiologist at Philadelphia's Children's Hospital.

Cortney's child, Lilly, had a condition called neonatal chylothorax, causing fluid buildup.

Doctors put a shunt in, problem over.    But a few days after her birth, Lilly underwent a diagnostic test.

"That MRI that day changed our entire lives," said Cortney.

Part of her lymphatic system was flowing in the wrong direction, from the thoracic duct towards the lungs.
It's a rare condition that caused leaks and led to fluid buildup.

"She needed an emergency chest tube and they were considering possibly intubating her to give her lungs a break, because they were on the verge of collapsing," said Cortney.

Instead, Dr. Dori decided on a novel method to stop the lung leaks: injecting poppy seed oil through the groin and into the lungs.

"Because these leaks are small, the poppy seed oil, we think, preferentially goes to where the leaks are and then causes inflammation and ultimately causes sclerosing, so the channels shut down," explained Dr. Dori.  "And that stops the leak. After a few days, we continued to manage her conservatively and she's doing amazingly well."

POPPY SEED OIL:  Poppy seed oil is an edible oil that is derived from poppy seeds.  These seeds contain 45 to 50 percent of oil, which is rich in Vitamin E, codeine and morphine.  It is used for both pharmaceutical and culinary reasons, as well as paints, soaps, and varnishes.  In industrialized countries it can also be used for culinary purposes as dipping oil or in salads.  It possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help to promote immunity and has a high concentration of minerals, vitamins, dietary fibers, and also electrolytes that assist the human body and circulatory system.   (Source:

This is a rare condition and doctors are uncertain as to the cause.

Although Cortney and her husband underwent extensive genetic testing, nothing raised red flags.

Doctors say they still don`t know what caused Lilly's medical problems.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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