For the first time in France, a foetus presenting with a congenital deformity, spina bifida, underwent surgery during the 5th month of pregnancy. The operation was performed in July 2014 and the child was born on 8 November by Caesarean section. “Both mother and baby are doing well”, announced Professor Jouannic, the doctor who carried out the procedure at Hôpital Armand Trousseau, with his colleague, Professor Michel Zerah, from the Department of Paediatric Surgery at Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades (Necker Hospital for Sick Children).
Spina bifida is the most common deformity involving the nervous system. It affects one out of every 1,000 pregnancies on average and is caused by defective closure of the neural tube. It is detected during a prenatal ultrasound scan in over 90% of cases. Approximately 40 children are born with this deformity in France every year.
“Within ten days of surgery, the brain abnormalities caused by the deformity were completely corrected. It is wonderful to have been able to protect this little girl’s brain to ensure her future development/learning”, explained Professor Jouannic, the gynaecologist-obstetrician who performed this operation. He explained that the aim of this “first” procedure of its kind in France was to “reduce the child’s potential disability but not to find a cure”.
The procedure has already been carried out in other countries such as Brazil and the United States, for example. In France, it is part of a research protocol approved by the AP-HP (Public Hospital System for Paris and its suburbs) and is available to couples who wish to continue the pregnancy after the diagnosis. This delicate operation involves risks such as premature birth or delivery by Caesarean section.
1. This deformity prevents the lumbar vertebrae from fusing to the column, thus leaving the spinal cord and its nerve roots unprotected.