Cleveland Clinic performs first in utero fetal surgery to repair birth defect

 Photo from WOIO
Photo from WOIO (WNDU)
Published: Jun. 19, 2019 at 5:34 PM EDT
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Cleveland Clinic doctors performed their first surgery on a baby still in her mother’s womb to repair a spina bifida birth defect.

Spina bifida affects the lowest part of the spine. The neural tube doesn’t fully close, potentially leading to spinal cord, nerve, and even brain damage.

The operation was done on the mother and baby at 23 weeks.

Cleveland Clinic doctors made a caesarean section-like incision, exposing the mother’s uterus.

Surgeons then used an ultrasound to find the placenta and fetus. A tiny incision is made so doctors can see the back of the fetus and repair the spina bifida lesion.

After the repair, doctors closed the uterus back up and the baby remained in the womb for the rest of the pregnancy.

The little girl was born on June 3 at 36.5 weeks. Both mom and baby are doing well.

While spina bifida can’t be cured, the doctors say the surgery was a success because the baby was born with a normal brain structure.

“By successfully repairing the birth defect before birth, we are allowing the child to have the best possible outcome and significantly improve her quality of life,” says Dr. Darrell Cass, who led the surgical team.

The CDC estimates 1,645 babies are born each year in the United States with spina bifida. It can affect their ability to run, walk and go to the bathroom.

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