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Successful Fetal Surgery For Spina Bifida

Fri, 02/24/2012 - 6:02am

(PRNewswire-USNewswire) Texas Children's Fetal Center is proud to announce the birth of Charlotte, the team's first patient to undergo in-utero surgery for the treatment of spina bifida. Charlotte's mother went into labor nearly 11 weeks after fetal closure was performed, and delivered Saturday evening by cesarean section. Mother and baby are doing well.

"Texas Children's Fetal Center is now one of the very few centers in the country providing all aspects of fetal surgery, and the addition of this capability increases the options of our Texas and regional patients tremendously," said Dr. Michael Belfort, MD, Ph.D., obstetrician and gynecologist-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital.

Myelomeningocele, also known as spina bifida or open neural tube defect (NTD), occurs in 3.4 out of every 10,000 live births in the U.S. and is the most common permanently disabling birth defect for which there is no known cure. Myelomeningocele is a developmental defect in which the spine is improperly formed and the spinal cord is open to and fused with the skin. It is usually associated with hydrocephalus, or the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, which requires surgical treatment to drain the fluid via an implanted device called a shunt. The standard of care is neurosurgical closure of the defect in the first days of life.

"A prenatal diagnosis of spina bifida can be daunting for families because it is often associated with a constellation of neurologic disabilities as well as hydrocephalus," said Dr. Robert Bollo, pediatric neurosurgeon at Texas Children's Hospital and assistant professor of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine. "Closure of the spinal defect before birth reduces the risk of hydrocephalus and may improve motor function in select patients. Fetal surgery is an exciting new tool in our multidisciplinary commitment to life-long care of patients with spina bifida."

"The confirmation that fetal surgery may decrease the physical challenges some of these babies face is not only a ray of hope for families, it is also a significant achievement for fetal medicine," said Dr. Darrell Cass, co-director of Texas Children's Fetal Center.

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