Surgeons have successfully operated on an unborn baby to correct his spina bifida in an amazing new procedure.
Foetal surgery to repair spina bifida has been performed since the 90s, but this new technique allows the surgery to be performed outside of the woman’s body by surgically removing the womb.
The uterus is lit up, allowing surgeons to better perform the difficult operation, and the tissue which should have formed a tube to form the spinal column is sewn together.
The womb was then placed back inside the mother, Lexi Royer, who is due to give birth in January.
She spoke of how happy she and her husband Joshuwa were when they conceived a child, after previously suffering the heartbreak of a miscarriage.
“There were a lot of happy tears”, she said of the 13-week ultrasound. “Then the ultrasound tech said she had to go back and get a doctor.”
Lexi and Joshuwa were told during numerous visits to specialists that the defect was severe. The couple were offered an abortion and felt the doctors were trying to pressure them into it.
Speaking after the surgery, which took place at just over 24 weeks’ gestation, Lexi said: “Seeing the ultrasound and how good he’s doing, moving his ankles and feet, it’s such a happy moment.”
While this surgery is not a complete cure, it can lessen the degree of disability to a child. Some critics warn that it is still very experimental, but the results are promising so far.
Twenty-eight such operations have now successfully taken place, in which no babies have died.
The procedure is not currently available in Britain as more evidence is needed to prove its safety.