Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest and most respected multispecialty hospitals in the US, has successfully performed its first in-utero foetal surgery to repair a spina bifida birth defect in a nearly 23-week-old foetus.

A multispecialty team of clinicians performed the surgery in February, and the baby, a girl, was later delivered by caesarean section near full term on June 3, making it northern Ohio’s first surgery of its kind. Mother and daughter are doing well, according to a statement by the hospital.

The surgical team, led by Dr Darrell Cass, MD, director of Foetal Surgery in Cleveland Clinic’s Foetal Centre and a specialist who has performed more than 160 foetal surgeries since 2002, included Dr Amanda Kalan, MD, medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s Special Delivery Unit; Dr Violette Recinos, MD, and Dr Kaine Onwuzulike, MD, both paediatric neurosurgeons; Dr Francine Erenberg, MD, foetal cardiologist; and Dr McCallum Hoyt, MD and Dr Tara Hata, MD, obstetric and paediatric anaesthesiologists.

Spina bifida is a birth defect that is most often discovered during the routine anatomy scan typically performed when a foetus is around 18 weeks old. The condition affects the lowest part of the spine and occurs when the neural tube does not fully close, causing the backbone that protects the spinal cord not to form as it should. This often results in damage to the spinal cord and nerves and can even lead to brain damage.

Spina bifida can affect a child’s lower leg strength and their ability to walk and run, as well as their ability to go to the bathroom and urinate adequately. According to the CDC, approximately 1,645 babies are born with spina bifida each year in the United States.



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