In England, NHS successfully conducts first in-utero spina bifida procedure

Publié le 26 Feb, 2019

A woman has undergone in-utero spina bifida surgery during the 24th week of pregnancy. Her daughter is due to be born in April. This is one of the first procedures of its kind to be performed in the United Kingdom by NHS surgeons. They were trained in Belgium, where the operation has been available to pregnant women for several years[1]. “I had the most recognised surgeons from around the world from University College London Hospital and Belgium looking after me”, explains the 26-year-old mother-to-be.


The 20-week ultrasound scan detected that the baby did not have a normal-sized head. Further investigations revealed that the baby girl had spina bifida, a malformation of the lower spine that affects the nervous system and can cause “partial or total paralysis of the lower limbs, intestinal and urinary incontinence, and loss of skin sensation”. There is less likelihood of irreversible damage when the procedure is performed during pregnancy instead of at birth. “We were offered continuing pregnancy, ending pregnancy or a new option called foetal surgery — fixing her before she is born. We had to do it“. The operation was carried out during the 24th week of pregnancy and went well.


“Sadly 80% of babies in England are terminated when their parents get told their baby has this condition”, explain parents Kieron and Bethan Simpson, who believe that their daughter “has the same potential as every one of us. […] I feel our baby kick me day in and day out, that’s never changed. She’s extra special, she’s part of history and our daughter has shown just how much she deserves this life”.


For further reading:

Surgeons operate on a foetus with spina bifida by exteriorising the mother’s uterus

Mother of a boy with spina bifida launches campaign to stop late-term abortions of disabled children

[1] See In-utero spina bifida operations in the United Kingdom: NHS gets on board

Daily Mail, Alexandra Thompson (11/02/2019) – Mother-to-be, 26, has pioneering surgery on her baby as doctors OPEN her womb to treat the child for birth defect spina bifida before it is born

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