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Reproductive & Child Health News

Fetal Surgery Corrects Birth Defect

PHILADELPHIA, PA--Physicians at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have shown that performing neurosurgery on fetuses months before birth can dramatically reverse a potentially devastating nervous system condition that occurs in severe forms of the birth defect spina bifida. By closing the hole in the tissue covering the fetal spine, the surgeons relieve a condition farther up the spinal column called hindbrain herniation that can cause hydrocephalus, a dangerous buildup of fluid pressure in the brain. The surgeons are at The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment of Children's Hospital, one of only two centers in the world offering comprehensive treatments in the emerging field of fetal surgery. Members of the surgical team have performed more than 250 fetal surgeries for a variety of conditions. In their study, the team reported on spina bifida surgeries performed between November 1997 and March 1999 on 10 fetuses at gestational ages of 22 to 25 weeks. "Our research suggests that performing this surgery earlier in pregnancy rather than later better prevents injury to the fetus," said Leslie N. Sutton, M.D., Director of Neurosurgery at Children's Hospital, and lead author of the study.

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