Teams of doctors in London, United Kingdom, are now able to operate on unborn babies who suffer from spina bifida – a spinal malformation – thus sparing them from paralysis and other health problems once they are out of the womb.
“Our coordinator based at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) manages referrals from the whole of the UK and devolved nations,” says Professor Anna David, a fetal medicine consultant at UCLH and the service lead. “Patients are then offered surgery either at London or Leuven [Belgium], based on their geographical location. We are really pleased to offer this joined-up service to smooth the patient journey as much as possible.”
Spina bifida is a malformation of the spine and the spinal cord, and can cause paralysis, and bowel, bladder and kidney problems. A team of up to 30 specialists take part in each operation, including fetal surgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, obstetricians, and radiologists. It has been discovered that babies have a better chance of having a normal life if they undergo an operation in utero between 23 and 26 weeks of pregnancy, and 32 babies can attest to this fact since they successfully went under the knife whilst in gestation.