Jaxson Sharp has spine repaired while in the womb, in first for UK surgeons
For the first time in the UK, doctors have performed pioneering keyhole surgery to repair the spine of a baby with spina bifida while still in the womb.
Surgeons from Kings College hospital in London used the cutting-edge technique to successfully close a hole in the spine of Jaxson Sharp 27 weeks into the pregnancy.
His mother, Sherrie, from Horsham, West Sussex, had the operation after a routine 20-week scan revealed that his spine and spinal cord had not developed normally. The condition can lead to substantial physical and cognitive developmental problems, including paralysis.
In the three-hour procedure, surgeons inserted a thin camera and small surgical tools into Sharps womb through three small incisions in her abdomen.
The doctors put the spinal cord in the right position and closed a gap in the spine with a patch, which will not cure his condition but will probably lead to a significant improvement of the condition later in life, said Bassel Zebian, a consultant neurosurgeon from Kings.
Its quite important, because improving the function of the lower limbs may be the difference between someone walking and someone not walking later in life, Zebian told the BBC. So a significant improvement in a significant number of patients, but not a cure.
Jaxson was born premature at 33 weeks and was cared for at Kings neonatal intensive care unit.
Sharp said: When we found out Jaxson had spina bifida I was given a number of options. We knew we wanted to keep our baby and Im here today thanks to the specialists at Kings so I wanted my baby to have the same chance.
The procedure took over three hours and the specialists were happy with how it went. Were thrilled with our beautiful boy and even though he arrived earlier than expected, hes doing well and his back is healing nicely.
The first in-womb surgery for spina bifida took place in the UK at the end of last year, but through more invasive surgery, involving the opening of the mothers abdomen and uterus.
NHS England has provided in-utero surgery for unborn babies with spina bifida since April. Evidence shows that waiting for corrective surgery until after birth can result in more severe long-term health consequences.
Before April, mothers carrying babies with spina bifida had to go to the US, Belgium or Switzerland to have the surgery.
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