Dozens of babies with spina bifida are spared paralysis after surgery while still in the womb.
The complex operation, which can be performed by a team of up to 30 doctors, has been performed on 32 babies in the womb since January 2020, NHS England reported.
The condition prevents the spinal cord and spinal cord from forming properly and can lead to problems with the intestines, bladder and kidneys, as well as paralysis.
Helena Purcell’s unborn baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and underwent surgery when she was 23 weeks pregnant.
The teacher was initially told that her child would probably be paralyzed and uncontinent and that she would need a brain shunt.
She became pregnant on her sixth IVF experience and gave birth to a baby girl named Mila at NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) University College London in March this year, three months after the operation.
She said: “I can’t explain the huge difference the service has made to my family. The NHS doctors are heroes in my eyes and the operation they did is just mind-boggling.
“If it weren’t for them, then Mila would be paralyzed. I’m so grateful she had that chance.”
Mila is showing good signs of development and is entirely on the continent, although there is still some fluid in her brain and she is now being watched by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
According to NHS England, operating on babies between 23 and 26 weeks of pregnancy, instead of waiting until birth, has a much better outcome for the baby.
The 30-member team involved in the operation includes fetal surgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists (both mother and baby), obstetricians, neuro-pediatric surgeons, radiologists, a scrub team and neonatologists in case the baby needs to be delivered.
Specialists from London and Belgium were involved in the effort.
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The NHS’s medical director in England, Professor Stephen Powys, said: “Apart from fighting a global pandemic, the NHS continues to develop and offer these follow-up services and continues to be there for patients.”
Professor Anna David, a consultant in fetal medicine at UCLH and head of the service, said it was optimized to make it easier for patients and referral hospitals.
She said: “Our UCLH-based coordinator manages referrals from across the UK and developing countries. Patients are then offered surgery in London or Leuven, depending on their geographical location. We are really pleased to offer this pool. a service to smooth out the patient’s journey as much as possible. “