WOMB WITH A VIEW Surgeons perform incredible spina bifida op on baby INSIDE the womb

A BABY boy diagnosed with a spine deformity has undergone life-changing surgery while still inside the womb.

His mum was 24 weeks pregnant when doctors lifted her womb out of her body to operate on her tiny baby.

Doctors in the US have been pioneering a new treatment for spina bifida that allows them to operate on a baby before birth.

Spina bifida occurs when a baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.

The hour-long operation at Texas Children’s Hospital saw hairdresser Lexi Royer’s womb drained and cut into to allow surgeons access to the baby, reports the New York Times.

Dr Michael Belfort, chairman of obstetrics and gynaecology at Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr William Whitehead, a paediatric surgeon, injected the baby with anaesthetic before moving skin over his exposed spinal cord and stitching it into place.

Beatrice de Gea/The New York Times /Redux/eyevine
Lexi Royer, pictured with her husband Joshuwa, was one of the first mums to have the operation last month
Spina bifida occurs in the early stages of pregnancy, at three to four weeks, when the tissue that forms the spinal column doesn’t close properly.

About 24 babies in 100,000 are affected and there are 14,000 living with the condition in Britain.

It leaves sufferers with a fluid build-up on the brain, unable to walk or control their bladder.

The exact cause of the condition is not known but it is thought to be strongly linked to a lack of folic acid in the early stages of pregnancy.

Beatrice de Gea/The New York Times /Redux/eyevine
Miniature cameras were used to allow surgeons to see where they were operating
Doctors have been performing foetal surgery to repair spina bifida since the 1990s.

It does not cure the condition but lessens the symptoms.

Now Dr Belfort and Dr Whitehead are testing a new technique that could significantly improve the outcome for babies with the condition.

It allows surgeons to fix the spinal defect before amniotic fluid destroys any further gaps in the spinal nerve tissue.

They gently pulled out the mothers uterus, which was still attached to her, from an incision in her abdomen and made two tiny cuts into it.

Amniotic fluid – the fluid the baby is suspended in – is then completely drained from the womb before the operation on the baby begins.

Beatrice de Gea/The New York Times /Redux/eyevine
Doctors created their own simulator to help them prepare for the operation
They then use carbon dioxide to keep the baby floating in the womb and anaesthetic to keep it still.

But some medics have warned against the procedure saying it is risky to drain the fluid and expose the foetus to carbon dioxide as the effects are unknown.

The doctors then insert a “fetoscope”, a small telescope with a camera, light and grasping tool, in one incision, the other was used for other medical instruments.

The light from the tools made the uterus glow red.

Once the operation is over doctors fill the womb with saltwater and replace it inside the mother’s body, allowing mum to continue her pregnancy as normal.

Lexi, 28, was one of the first mums to undergo the operation last month.

Lexi was initially offered an abortion when she was told about her baby’s condition but chose to take part in the experimental surgery instead.

Getty – Contributor
Spina bifida occurs when a baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb
“It sounded like we were looking at brain damage, feeding tubes, a breathing tube, a wheelchair, just a bad quality of life,” Mrs Royer said.

“He has function down to what they call the ‘gas pedal’ movement.

“His ankle is flexing and pointing, a really good sign for being able to walk.

“It’s not done by any means, but I definitely feel it’s the right thing for us.”

Mrs Royer said she couldn’t imagine continuing with the pregnancy not knowing how bad her son’s condition was getting – the surgery allowed them to move forward.

Her baby is due in January.

Dr Belfort and Dr Whitehead have reported on their work in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

They have had 28 successful operations so far.


Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4762276/surgeons-perform-incredible-op-on-baby-inside-the-womb-to-correct-spine-deformity/

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