Amazing new surgery corrects spines before birth

Did you know surgeons can reduce the risk of neurological complications from spina bifida by operating while a baby is still in the womb?

It's complex procedure called "in-utero spina bifida surgery" and requires a diverse team of experts to accomplish, according to a Mayo Clinic video added to YouTube recently .

According to the March of Dimes, spina bifida , in layman's terms, means "open spine."

"Spina bifida happens when the bones in the spine don't form correctly, or when the spinal cord doesn't form correctly, leaving a gap or opening," the March of Dimes says in its description of the condition. It can happen anywhere on the spine and is the most common kind of neural-tube defect.

According to Mayo, it's not known exactly why spina bifida occurs. But risks include "race, family history, diabetes, obesity, increased body temperature and folate deficiency."


What is folate? Folate is folic acid, a specific type of vitamin B.

The March of Dimes says folic acid, and foods high in folic acid (like peas, beans, spinach, orange juice, broccoli and folic acid fortified cereals) can help prevent some types of birth defects, including spina bifida. (If you're a female capable of becoming pregnant, please talk to your health provider to see if you need a folic acid supplement.)

But it's important to note that folic acid only works if a woman takes it before and during early pregnancy, the March of Dimes says.

If spina bifida occurs, surgery is a possibility. It's not a cure. But it can help avoid neurological complications.

It's quite a procedure.

The mother's uterus can be pulled out of her belly, if the placenta is blocking access. A small incision is made in the uterus, according to Mayo, and stapled to prevent blood loss.

If needed, the uterus is filled with a special fluid that causes the developing baby to float to the surface, spinal column facing upward.

Then, the surgery is performed, the spinal column secured and the opening sewn shut.


Everything gets put back inside the mother's belly and development continues until full-term, when baby is born.

That seems pretty remarkable.

One wonders, at what point does a doctor think, "let's just pull the uterus out and do the surgery that way"?

Kudos to all those who have make this incredible procedure possible.

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