Doctors Repair Hole in Unborn Baby’s Back at 23 Weeks of Pregnancy

State   Steven Ertelt   Mar 13, 2013   |   11:42AM    New Orleans, LA

In another fascinating surgery in the womb, doctors in New Orleans, Louisiana have helped a little boy repair a medical problem before he was even born.

The Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans performed a successful surgery on Colby Boudreaux, who had a hole in his back repaired while he was still a pre-born baby. At 23 weeks gestation, the team of doctors performed surgery on Colby to correct this problem.

From the story:

Colby Boudreaux is moving his legs and feet. While this is something most parents take for granted, for the Thibodaux infant, it’s remarkable.

Colby underwent a life-changing surgery at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans to correct a myelomeningocele birth defect, the most serious form of spina bifida, 12 weeks before he was born.

During the groundbreaking surgery, Ochsner’s fetal surgery team of 18 doctors and nurses operated on the 23-week-old fetus while still in his mother’s uterus. It’s a procedure fewer than 10 hospitals in the U.S. are able to perform. Ochsner officials say it’s a first for any hospital along the Gulf Coast.

Myelomeningocele, or MMC, affects about 1 in every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. The condition occurs when the spinal cord is exposed through an opening in the spine, leaving nerves exposed and vulnerable to injury from amniotic fluid. It can lead to hydrocephalus, a buildup of spinal fluid in the brain that can cause neurological disabilities, problems with movement of the lower limbs, sensation impairment and bladder and bowel issues for the rest of the child’s life.

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Traditionally, surgeons wait to repair the defect until after a baby is born. But a landmark 2011 study on the defect found that babies who received the surgery prenatally were half as likely to need a ventricular shunt, a plastic tube placed inside the brain to reduce pressure. They were also twice as likely to walk independently at 2 years of age and had better motor function than those who had surgery after birth.