Doctors Successfully Treat Spina Bifida in Unborn Baby


In the first operation of its kind in Europe, the San Raffaele hospital in Milan has used new technology to correct spina bifida, a congenital defect which affects some 20,000 babies worldwide. The operation was performed on the baby at 22 weeks. A team of gynaecologists and neurosurgeons at the Milan hospital successfully performed the “complete neurosurgical correction of spina bifida in utero,” local media report.


The condition was diagnosed at the 19th week of pregnancy, and the operation, which lasted just over two hours, was carried out three weeks later.


The San Raffaele team, coordinated by obstetrician Massimo Candiani and neurosurgeon Pietro Mortini, used a reduced invasive technique aimed at minimising the chance of traumas to the uterus and the baby.


Doctors were able to pierce the amniotic sac through a single tiny incision of the uterus, the hospital told Italian media, and corrected the malformation in the spine with micro-tools and advanced neurosurgery techniques.


The mother is doing well, the hospital said, and has already been allowed to go home.


Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s spinal cord does not develop properly during early pregnancy. Developmental anomalies, which usually occur in the first 8-10 weeks, mean the vertebrae fail to connect properly. The condition can cause loss of mobility of the lower limbs and neurological complications. Children born with the condition usually require ongoing medical care throughout their lives.


Dr Candiani, head of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, said the “exceptional operation” will have better results than any treatments carried out once babies are born.


“International scientific evidence shows that children with spina bifida operated on in uterohave fewer neurological consequences after birth and a better chance of recovery compared to those operated on as newborns,” explained Dr Mortini, head of neurosurgery at the hospital. “The repair process actually continues during the pregnancy in the weeks following the intervention,” he explained, “bringing the foetal structures and neurological functions to normal”

The Local. October 18.

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