“In a United Kingdom first, a team of specialists from University College London (UCL), University College London Hospitals (UCLH), and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) performed surgeries on two different babies with spina bifida while they were still in their mothers’ wombs.”
The surgeries occurred during the summer being the first of its type, and it has been reported that both the mothers and babies are doing well. The surgery was only possible because the condition ‘spina bifida’ stops the spinal canal from closing completely in the womb. This means that the spinal cord is exposed from an early pregnancy stage. Trying to cure this condition after birth could lead to additional surgical interventions later in life, so tacking the problem as early as possible (aka pre birth) seems to be the best way forward.
Lead surgeon Ja Deprest had this to say:
“Operating in the womb involves opening the uterus, exposing the spina bifida without delivering the baby, closing the defect, and then repairing the uterus to leave the baby safely inside. Closure of spina bifida in the womb using this method is an alternative to postnatal surgery, and has been shown to improve short and medium-term outcomes. While neither intervention is fully curative, in fetal surgery, the defect is closed earlier, which prevents damage to the spinal cord in the last third of pregnancy.”
As this surgery has worked so well, the procedure will be available for free for the first few expectant mothers who need it – this is due to a generous amount of funding by many UK nonprofit organisations, particularly GOSH Children’s Charity and UCLH Charity. Hopefully as time goes on, many more ‘post birth’ surgeries will become available to expectant mothers and their babies/
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