Doctors repair unborn baby’s spine in UK first

For the first time in the UK, doctors have used keyhole surgery to repair the spine of a baby with spina bifida while still in the womb.

Sherrie Sharp was shocked when she was told at a 20-week scan that her little boy’s spine was not developing properly, but said abortion was a “definite no”.

Spina bifida is when a baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.

Three-hour surgery

Sherrie opted for the ground-breaking surgery to limit the damage, saying: “I wanted to do the best for my baby, I wanted him to have a better life and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

In a three-hour operation, surgeons put the exposed section of spinal cord back in place and used a patch to cover it.

Mr Bassel Zebian, a consultant neurosurgeon at the hospital, said operating in the womb reduced the risk of complications later in life.

He said: “It’s quite important, because improving the function of the lower limbs may be the difference between someone walking and someone not walking later in life.”


Sherrie gave birth to Jaxson at 33 weeks, and while he was looked after in intensive care at King’s College Hospital, he is developing well.

Sherrie said: “He’s got movements in his legs, we were told he’d have minimal movements if we didn’t have the surgery and he wouldn’t be able to move at all.

“I’ve got high hopes for him, from day one he’s done things, he’s amazed us all.

“He makes me proud every day”.

In Great Britian, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks, or up to birth in cases of severe disabilities, such as spina bifida.

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