Spina Bifida is a disease that affects a minimum of 1500 babies every year in the U.K. The disease is generally diagnosed during pregnancy well before 18 weeks with ultrasounds. IF you are an expectant mother or if your unborn baby is diagnosed with spina bifida, you should definitely know about this miracle surgery doctor performed on an unborn baby.
What Is Spina Bifida?
Spina Bifida is a Latin word that means “Split Spine” in English. It is a congenital disability the affects the growth of the fetus during pregnancy. It results in paralysis, kidney and heart defects, and growth abnormalities after birth if left untreated.
Spina bifida occurs when the neural tube that connects the brain with the spinal cord or Vitamin B-9 deficiency during the first trimester of pregnancy doesn’t allow the backbone to form completely. Thus, leaving the spinal cord vulnerable to damages.
During pre ultrasound days, this disease was diagnosed in newborns by looking for birthmarks or tuft of hair in and around the spinal cord and feeling the region for the absence of bones. It usually led to physical and mental issues but was not found to be harmful when it came to mortality and functionality of the affected individuals unless they had paralysis.
How Many Types of Spina Bifida Are There?
There are three types of Spina Bifida:
- Spina Bifida Occulta- The mild and most common one to occur, it causes extra gaps between the backbone that are typically harmless. They are visible only through an X-ray and many individuals who have it don’t find any difference in their functionality.
- Meningocele- This is a rare case scenario that happens when the spinal fluid leaks out of its sac through the opening in the baby’s back. The baby’s affected usually experience kidney, bladder and bowel problems.
- Myelomeningocele- This is the most severe among the three, it causes several opening in the backbone with spinal cord sacs and bundles of nerves to poke out and get damaged during movement.
How Did Doctors Perform Surgery on the Unborn Baby?
Helena was trying for her second child and conceived after 6 failed IVF attempts. Around the 20th week scan, it was diagnosed that her unborn baby was suffering from Spina Bifida.
Doctors suggested that given the size of the hole in the backbone, there were high chances for the baby to be born paralyzed with other complications and would need to be shunted periodically to drain the excess fluid inside the brain.
Though Helena was devastated as a mother, she didn’t lose hope and searched for different possibilities that could give a healthier and fuller life for her unborn baby.
Thus, during the 23rd week, she became eligible for surgery with a surgeon in Belgium who worked in partnership with the NHS.
The complex surgery was carried with 25 physicians in a keyhole pattern where they insert high-tech neonatal surgical instruments into the womb to operate on the fetus. The surgery was a success as per the records yet they had to wait until the baby was born to finalize the outcome.
Later, baby Mila short for Spanish Milagro which means miracle was born. Though she had developed properly in terms of physical appearance there was still fluid in her brain that needed to be shunted out.
The trailblazing services offered by the NHS apart from the Pandemic care have been immense and constant. This surgery may be the first of its kind but definitely not the last with the amount of success it has offered in the first trial itself.