A Mom is Undergoing In-Utero Surgery to Fix Her Baby’s Spina Bifida

When they found out that they were having a son, Nash and Callie Horne were thrilled. They even decided to name their son Nash as well. But then an unexpected challenge occurred when Callie had her 20-week ultrasound; doctors told Callie that her son had spina bifida. According to KVUE, the parents were immediately concerned. What would happen to Nash? Would he be able to walk, or would he require mobility assistance? What could Callie and her husband do to ensure that their son had the best shot?

After speaking with specialists, Callie and Nash were told that their son, with no intervention, had a 60% chance of having impacted or poor nerve function, as well as a lowered chance of walking. So they decided to undergo a fetoscopic surgery at the Texas Children’s Hospital Fetal Center. 

Fetoscopic Surgery

Previously, surgery to fix spina bifida consisted of a large (7cm) uterine incision. Doctors would fix the spine through this incision. But this surgery was invasive and came with risks, such as uterine rupture or preterm birth. 

The Texas Children’s Hospital developed a new way to perform fetoscopic repair. According to the website, the Hospital was the first to pioneer a minimally invasive procedure in which:

Two 4-millimeter incisions are made in the uterus and fetoscopic ports are inserted [which remove amniotic fluid and replace it with carbon dioxide gas before a small scope and tiny surgical instruments are inserted into the uterus]. Guided by ultrasound, the surgeon closes the defect, protecting the fetal spinal column and nerves from infection and injury.

This surgery is typically performed between weeks 19-26 of gestation. Callie was the 100th person to undergo this procedure since it was developed. 

After surgery, Nash’s spina bifida was fixed. At 7 months old, Nash is playful, fun, and happy – and his parents are so thrilled to discover what the future holds. 

About Spina Bifida

Spina bifida (which translates to “cleft spine”) is a rare birth defect in which the neural tube (which forms the brain and spinal cord) fails to close during embryonic development. This means that some of the spinal cord is exposed and may protrude through the spine. Ultimately, this causes nerve damage and can lead to life-long paralysis, with varying severity. An estimated 1 in every 2,500 infants have spina bifida. While doctors are unsure what causes spina bifida, a mixture of insufficient folic acid, genetics, and environmental factors are believed to play a role. There are multiple forms of spina bifida, including spina bifida occulta, meningocele, closed neural tube defects, and myelomeningocele. Symptoms and severity vary based on the form and the extent of the defect. However, some common signs or characteristics can include:

  • A fluid-filled sac protruding from the spinal canal
    • Note: This could be covered with skin (meningocele) or contain part of the spinal cord with no skin covering (myelomeningocele)
  • Lower limb paralysis
  • A dimple or tuft of hair over the affected area
  • Problems with bladder and bowel control
  • Difficulty walking
  • Intellectual disabilities 
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Seizures

Learn more about spina bifida.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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