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22nd Fetal Spina Bifida Surgery 


Twenty-Second Fetal Surgery on April 22 May Help Baby Walk After Birth

Surgery is the 22nd fetal myelomeningocele repair conducted at the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute

A better chance of walking, along with reduced brain and nerve damage, is what doctors at the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute are working toward for babies with the most severe from of spina bifida, myelomeningocele.

Myelomeningocele is caused when the back’s bones do not close over to protect the spinal cord. It can cause paralysis and brain damage before a baby is even born. The team at the Fetal Care Institute can repair the myelomeningocele while the baby is still in the womb.

“Research has shown that babies who receive the surgery before they are born have a better chance of walking, and a decreased chance of needing a brain shunt to release excess fluid,” says Fetal Care Institute Director Dr. Mike Vlastos, who is a fetal surgeon and maternal fetal medicine specialist.

On April 22, the team at the Fetal Care Institute performed its 22nd fetal myelomeningocele repair at SSM
St. Mary’s Health Center. The surgery made it one of the fastest-growing repair programs in the country.
In May 2011, the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute was one of the first centers to offer the operation after the release of the MOMS (Management of Myelomeningocele) trial results. Since then, the team has evaluated more than 40 patients carrying a baby with myelomeningocele.

“We follow strict medical guidelines set by the MOMS Trial, and all of our families receive extensive counseling to ensure the surgery is the right choice for them,” says Vlastos.

The fetal myelomeningocele repair surgery, which is performed between 19 and 26 weeks into a pregnancy, involves making a small opening in the uterus, then closing the spinal cord opening; the womb is repaired and the mother is in the hospital for four to five days.
The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute is a partnership between SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, SSM St. Mary’s Health Center, and Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Bringing together renowned maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialists, pediatric and fetal surgeons, specialized nurses, cutting-edge technology, and a family-oriented approach, The Institute offers state-of-the-art diagnostic methods and treatment options for families whose unborn babies are facing medical challenges. It is the leading comprehensive fetal care program in Middle America offering a variety of fetal interventions and treatments, including open and minimally invasive fetal surgery for babies in the womb.
In May 2011 The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute was one of the first centers to offer the surgery following the release of the MOMS (Management of Myelomeningocele) trial results. In this National Institute of Health (NIH) sponsored trial, patients facing a spina bifida diagnosis were randomly assigned to undergo fetal surgery or receive standard postnatal surgery.  It was found that babies who have the fetal surgery often have better outcomes than those who receive the standard repair surgery after birth.


Click here to see a NBC Newschannel 5 story about this surgery.


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