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Children’s Hospital Performs First Spina Bifida Surgery on Infant—Three Months Before She is Born

THV News reported late last week on an amazing new surgery performed for the first time on an infant inside the mother’s womb before she was even born. This represents a terrific medical advance that deserves accolades. This particular surgery was performed to correct a spinal birth defect-spina bifida. Amazingly, this surgery was performed when the girl’s mother was 25 weeks pregnant. The girl was finally born last week, more than three months after the surgery was performed.

Spina bifida is a damaging birth injury that arises when a child develops incorrectly with the spinal cord remaining exposed. When not corrected while in the womb it can lead to brain damage and paralysis by the time of birth. Had the surgery not been performed, it is likely that the girl in this case would have faced these injuries. The surgeon leading the effort explained that “ongoing mechanical and chemical injury from the amniotic fluid and moving around inside the uterus is thought to contribute additional damage.”

To avoid the problem of letting the fetus develop while the cord remained exposed, the surgeons at the hospital decided to try the very delicate fetal surgery. The procedure involved covering the exposed spinal cord while inside the mother’s womb.

In the past these surgeries were performed in the first few days after the child was born. However, this represents time first time this particular surgery has been before on a fetus. In the past doctors were unsure if the risks of the surgery outweighed the potential benefit of correcting the problem before birth. After a recent study into the issues suggested that the benefits outweigh the possible harm, the doctors had the green light to try out the surgery. The girl in this case is not without all complications. She maintains certain problems as a result of developing six months with the problem. She will still likely need more surgeries throughout her life. However, as a result of the early intervention surgery, her brain so far seems to be developing normally. This is obviously tremendously good news for the family involved, and they admit that they’d make the same decision again.

By the nature of our work, the Chicago birth injury lawyers at our firm are involved in situations where medical care at birth was below a reasonable level. Our clients are those who have loved ones that suffered a range of injuries-from cerebral palsy and shoulder dystocia to brachial plexus injuries and complications from breech births. Instead of revolutionary new techniques, the cases we work on involve known standards not being met which results in severe harm. Fortunately, while the total number of negligent births remains too high, we have not forgotten that more often than not doctors and medical teams provide great care for their patients. As this latest surgery case demonstrates, there are times when medical professionals make truly amazing advances that will help thousands of future children live better lives than they otherwise might. The contributions of these professionals should be respected.

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