Success in France's first 'spina bifida' fetal operation

French surgeons announced on Wednesday that a mother gave birth to a healthy baby following the first in utero intervention to repair the potentially dangerous congenital disorder.

Necker Hospital in Paris, site of the operation.
Necker Hospital in Paris, site of the operation. Wikipedia

Doctors with Parisian hospital association APHP said the two-hour intervention took place in July, during the fifth month of pregnancy, and that both the mother and the child were healthy after a birth by Caesarean section on 9 November.

"Ten days after the operation, the cerebral anomolies due to the deformation were totally repaired," said Jean-Marie Jouannic, one of two doctors who carried out the operation at Paris's Necker Hospital.

The surgery would "open the door to better care and improved motor and intellectual development for children afflicted with this defect", he added.

Spina bifida, Latin for "split spine", is an anomoly affecting the formation of the spinal cord during pregnancy. It affects about one pregnancy in 1,000, or about 800 pregnancies per year in France.

Generally treated after birth, it can lead to paralysis and incontinence.

In France, the operation can now be proposed to parents who, following diagnosis by echography, wish to keep their children.

The operation has already been performed for several years in Brazil and the United States.

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