Medical science continues to advance and things continue to get better for mothers and unborn children who face potentially devastating prenatal diagnoses.
Doctors in the United Kingdom performed the country’s first-ever “keyhole” surgery to repair the spine of an unborn child with spina bifida, the BBC reports.
Sherrie Sharp and her son Jaxson, who was diagnosed with the condition after a routine 20-week pregnancy checkup, had the surgery during the 27th week of pregnancy. The 29-year-old mother told the British media outlet that the diagnosis left her in shock, but the option of aborting her little boy was a “definite no.”
Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spine, the CDC explains. It can happen anywhere along the spine where the backbone protecting the spinal cord doesn’t form and close properly, which often leads to nerve damage.
Jaxson’s spine was not developing correctly because gaps left his spinal cord exposed to amniotic fluid, leading to concerns about paralysis.
In order to correct the problem, surgeons at King’s College Hospital in London sedated both mother and child, made three small incisions in Sherrie’s uterus, and then used a small camera and tools to put the exposed spinal cord in place and patch up the gaps in the baby’s backbone. The procedure took three hours.
This was the first time doctors in the United Kingdom have used the “keyhole” approach to prenatal spina bifida repairs. A previous procedure involved opening up the uterus.
Consultant neurosurgeon Bassel Zebian explained that, while the second-trimester procedure isn’t a cure for the defect, “improving the function of the lower limbs may be the difference between someone walking and someone not walking later in life.”
Jaxson arrived a few weeks early and spent some time in the NICU, but his mother says he’s doing well now.
“He’s got movements in his legs, we were told he’d have minimal movements if we didn’t have the surgery and he wouldn’t be able to move at all,” Sherrie told the BBC. “I’ve got high hopes for him, from day one he’s done things, he’s amazed us all.”
“He makes me proud every day, he’s just a miracle.”