Physicians at the Canadian Specialist Hospital in Dubai operated on a one-day-old baby with a birth defect called spina bifida, says a recent report. The surgery saved the infant’s life.
Spina bifida, which literally means “cleft spine,” occurs when the neural tube, a layer of cells that develops into the brain and spinal cord, does not close completely during the first month of embryonic development. Because of this, the bones of the spinal column don’t close completely around the spinal cord’s developing nerves. This leaves a portion of it exposed. Part of the spinal cord may protrude through an opening in the spine, which leads to nerve damage. While the spinal opening can be surgically repaired after birth, the nerve damage is permanent.
The baby’s form of spina bifida was called myelomeninocele. Myelomeninocele is the most severe and rare form of this birth defect. The spinal cord and nerve endings protrude out of the body from an opening in the spine. This leads to partial or complete paralysis below the spinal opening. Individuals with it may be unable to walk and have an excessive amount of fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus). To learn more about spina bifida and its other types, click here.
Spinda bifida can be diagnosed before a baby is even born, through techniques like blood tests, ultrasounds on the fetus, and amniocentesis, in which a doctor removes samples of fluid from the sac surrounding the fetus.
This is why the doctors were able to perform a surgery immediately after the child was born. The mother flew from Chad to Canadian Specialist Hospital while in her third trimester, where the doctors then diagnosed the unborn child. After performing a C-section in the ninth month of the pregnancy, doctors immediately got to work on managing the myelomeninocele. Immediate action is important, as surgery can prevent infection from developing in the exposed nerves and tissue.
The baby was born with a large cyst on the back with nerve endings exposed, says Dr. Mohammad Noor Al Deen Jabbar, the specialist neurosurgeon at the hospital. The goal was to preserve the spinal cord and the nerve roots, then put them back where they were supposed to be.
The procedure was risky, so the team had to be extra careful. Since the baby was so young, anesthesia had to be administered very accurately. Any major blood loss could have led to complications like hypovolemic shock.
But the risk was worth it: after the surgery, close observation, and waiting time for the wound to heal, the baby was discharged and able to go home.
The hospital reported that the operation went without complications, despite the complexity of the procedure.