Surgery Before Birth


POSTED: Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 10:48am

UPDATED: Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 10:51am

Study finds in utero surgeries for spina bifida preferable to operating after birth.

Doctors at Vanderbilt University started experimenting with correcting spina bifida on a fetus in the womb more than a decade ago.

The surgery gives doctors and their tiny patients a chance to meet before they are born.

Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the spine doesn't fully close around the spinal cord, leaving it exposed.

Surgery to repair the spine normally occurs shortly after birth, but a new, multi-hospital study looked at operating during the second trimester of pregnancy.

"The trial really showed clearly that when we compared the patients who had had surgery post-natally versus prenatally, on average, the kids that were repaired in utero had better outcomes," says pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Nalin Gupta.

Children operated on before birth were nearly a third less likely to need a shunt to remove fluid from the brain.

They were also more likely to walk unassisted.

Experts are quick to note this is not a cure, and there are significant risks.

Babies who underwent prenatal surgery were more likely to be born premature and have respiratory problems.

Despite these challenges, doctors are keeping a positive outlook.

"This has been a relatively neglected disease, people felt that there was nothing that could be done for these children," says Dr. Diana Farmer.

Now there's new hope shared by everyone involved.

Comments News Comments

Post new Comment