Science Reporting

First surgery conducted in the uterus on a fetus with spina bifida

The first spina bifida surgery in utero was performed by a group of doctors from Magee-Womens Hospital and Children’s Hospital, University of Pittsburgh. The researchers managed to fix an open neural tube defect in the fetus even before its birth. In fact, the mother was told that her fetus was characterized by the so-called “spina bifida,” a defect that sees a bone of the spine above that makes exposed the spinal cord.

This is because muscles and skin, as well as the bone itself, do not form correctly during the development of the fetus and cause a malformation to one or more vertebrae. This is a condition that leads to severe physical disabilities. Among other things, the fetus itself had been diagnosed with the most severe type of spina bifida.

This is a risky intervention when carried out on already born children, “but research shows that children who are closed in the uterus have better neurological results than children treated after birth,” as reported by Stephen Emery, one of the researchers involved in the operation. A previous study also showed that an intervention performed before birth can halve the risk of hydrocephalus accumulation in the brain, one of the most common negative effects of spina bifida.

The operation was performed two months ago and in the meantime, the baby was born. The first tests, according to the researchers, show that it seems to be characterized by normal leg functions but will have to spend the entire first year of life to completely rule out problems related to hydrocephalus.