The Cleveland Clinic, a world-renowned children’s hospital, performed a surgery to correct spina bifida on a baby in the womb back in February, becoming the first hospital in Northern Ohio to do so. The little baby girl had the surgery 23 weeks before gestation, and she was born last month at almost 37 weeks. Speaking on the procedure, surgeon Dr. Darrell Cass said:
“By successfully repairing the defect before birth, we’re allowing this child to have the best possible outcome and significantly improve her quality of life. There are different measures of quality in determining success for fetal repairs and in this particular case, all metrics for maximum quality were achieved.”
A report from WGN 9 elaborates further on the advent of fetal surgery:
“Fetal surgery for the birth defect is currently an option for parents in about 20 hospitals in North America after becoming clinically accepted in 2011. Prior to 2011, there were only four fetal surgery centers in the world. Cass was the director of one of them.”
Spina bifida is a condition where there is a problem with the closure of the neural tube at the bottom of the spine, which leads to the spinal cord and the surrounding nerves to be directly exposed to amniotic fluid. The most severe form is Myelomeningocele, which occurs in 3.4 of every 10,000 live births every year. Around 1,645 babies are born with some form of spina bifida annually.
In-utero surgery has led to improvements in motor functions and reductions in babies requiring brain shunts after birth. Through the aid of ultrasound guidance, the mother’s uterus is opened just above the problem area on the child’s back, and several layers of tissue are stitched together to cover up the defect. There have been reports of many successful prenatal surgeries to reduce spina bifida complications, proving how science can be used to enhance the value of human life instead of ending it.