Amazing Photo Shows Doctors Removing Womb With Unborn Baby to Repair Spina Bifida

National   Micaiah Bilger   Oct 25, 2017   |   1:00PM    Waco, TX

The New York Times published an incredibly life-affirming article this week about a new fetal surgery that is helping unborn babies with spina bifida.

The report is accompanied by amazing photos showing a Texas surgical team working on a woman and her unborn baby while he still is inside the womb.

For years, doctors have been performing surgery on unborn babies with spina bifida to help lessen the effects of the spinal defect before birth. But surgeons at Baylor College of Medicine have developed a pioneer surgical procedure that could be even more successful in treating the ailment.

In the new technique, Dr. Michael Belfort, a surgeon at Baylor in Houston, Texas, partially removes the womb with the unborn baby from the woman’s body before operating on his/her spine, according to The Telegraph. Then, Belfort and his team make small incisions in the womb to fix the gap in the unborn baby’s spinal cord, caused by spina bifida.

Belfort explained that the fetal surgery helps decrease the damage to the spine while the baby still is in the womb. He said the amniotic fluid eats away at the nerve tissue in the gap of the spine, so closing the gap before birth is important.

Two of his first patients were Lexi Royer and her unborn baby boy. Royer said doctors tried to pressure her to have an abortion after her unborn son was diagnosed with spina bifida, but she refused.

Then, she learned about Belfort’s new surgical procedure. She and her unborn baby underwent the procedure when she was 24 weeks pregnant. She is due in January.

“It’s not done by any means, but I definitely feel it’s the right thing for us. Seeing the ultrasound and how good he’s doing, moving his ankles and feet, it’s such a happy moment,” Royer told the NYT.

Here’s more from the report:

During the three hour operation at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Mr Belfort opened Mrs Royer’s abdomen but instead of cutting into the uterus, removed the whole womb through the hole. He then made two slits in the womb, one for a fetoscope – a tiny camera designed to light up and film inside – and another for surgical tools.

Doctors pumped in carbon dioxide to keep the uterus buoyant, giving the, room to work and allowing them to see the spine more easily.

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After injecting the foetus with anaesthetic, the team moved skin over the exposed spinal cord and stitched it in place. Doctors then refilled the womb with saltwater and replaced it back into Mrs Royer.

To develop the procedure Dr Belfort and colleague Dr Whitehead spent two years practicing on sheep and a rubber ball with a doll insider wrapped in chicken skin to mimic the defect in spina bifida.

The team is now reporting on their work in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology following 28 successful operations in which no foetuses have died, and only a few have needed shunts to drain fluid from the brain. Some of the mothers have also not needed caesarean sections.

Belfort said they typically perform the surgery around 24 weeks because if something goes wrong, there is a good chance the baby will survive outside the womb.

Though Belfort’s technique is new, doctors have been performing in-utero surgery for spina bifida and other ailments for years in the United States. In 2003, the National Institute of Health’s Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) found that closing the spinal defect in utero reduced the need for shunts after birth and boosted the child’s chances of walking independently. Doctors think the procedure may reduce the odds of learning disabilities as well.

In 2014, LifeNews reported British doctors performed the first in-utero surgery on an unborn baby girl with spina bifida. The surgery was a success, and by December 2016, 14-month-old Frankie was overcoming her disability and learning to walk, The Express reports.

Currently, at least 13 hospitals in the U.S. perform the fetal surgery on unborn babies with spina bifida.

Researchers estimate that 68 percent of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida die from abortion. However, these new surgical procedures recognize that unborn babies are individual patients who deserve care, not death.