A medical expert is hopeful surgery on babies with spina bifida, while still in the womb, will become more common.
A couple in the United Kingdom learned their 20-week preborn baby had spina bifida, which means a portion of the lower spine was exposed. They took out a loan and traveled to Germany for surgery on the baby in utero. The baby girl was born completely healthy at about 30 weeks, although doctors won't claim full success unless she can later walk.
Dr. Mike Chupp of the Christian Medical Association explains why the procedure is exciting.
"[We have the opportunity] to actually improve the chances that a baby born with spina bifida will actually have improved neurological outcomes after delivery – and a lower chance to have hydrocephalus because of an associated defect problem that occurs with these spina bifida cases," he shares.
While Chupp recognizes the in utero surgery does pose some degree of obstetrical complications for the mother, he sees a definite upside.
"The outcome for the baby in the long-term prognosis for the chances of walking, for the chances of having better bowel and bladder function are much better with the in utero surgery," he explains. "So I think that this could be said to be more of a gold standard – and I think it will be more common as more centers in the West and in Europe are doing this kind of surgery."
Chupp is a general surgeon who worked in Kenya for about 15 years and closed spines of two dozen spina bifida cases after birth – so the prospect of doing the surgery in utero before they are born is especially exciting to him.