pioneering surgery London, Feb 12 (PTI) An unborn baby in the UK has had a successful “foetal repair” surgery on her spine while she was still in her mother’s womb.
Bethan Simpson, 26, from Essex, was told her unborn daughter Eloise had spina bifida, a birth defect in which a developing baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly, at her 20-week scan.
Simpson has become one of the first mothers in the UK to undergo the pioneering “foetal repair” surgery.
During a four-hour operation her womb was opened and her baby’s bottom exposed, allowing surgeons to “sew up” a tiny hole in her lower spine.
Simpson said she “couldn’t justify terminating a child I could feel kicking”.
The procedure has been deemed successful and the baby is now due in April, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
Simpson said she and husband Keiron were advised to terminate her pregnancy after the condition was diagnosed, but the decision to opt for foetal repair was a “no brainer”.
“I’m being told she’s paralysed, but she very much wasn’t,” Simpson said.
She was approved for surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital in December after a series of tests and scans, and described the ensuing weeks as a “rollercoaster”.
The operation at 24 weeks involved opening her womb and lifting her baby into position to repair the hole, as well as repositioning the baby’s spinal cord.
Great Ormond Street Hospital’s lead neurosurgeon, Dominic Thompson, described the operation on Mrs Simpson’s baby as “an incredible journey”.
“Until now, when people got this devastating news there were two options – continue with the pregnancy or termination. This now offers a third option,” he said.
The elated mother said, “I came out of surgery at one o’clock and could feel her moving that evening.” “It was reassuring to feel that first kick after the anaesthetic wore off. She’s bigger now, of course, and her kicks are stronger.” Simpson said she remembered the surgeon telling her on the ward later: “I’ve held your baby.” Simpson is thought to be the fourth patient to undergo the surgery in the UK, with the procedure mostly carried out in Belgium and the United States.
From April, the procedure will be available on the government-run National Health Service in England. Two-hundred babies are born with spina bifida in the UK every year, the report said.
“It is not a cure. But there is quite clear evidence through critical trials that the outlook can be a lot better with surgery early on,” Dr Thompson said.
Simpson urged parents in her position to consider surgery and “give every option a go”.
“There are unknowns – it’s major surgery, and the biggest decision you’ll make in your life,” she said.
“But remember most children born with spina bifida today are walking and reaching normal milestones,” she added. PTI
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.