YOUR HEALTH: Spina bifida breakthrough: Fixing Abigail Rose before she’s born

An innovative surgery done before the baby is even born is giving these kids with spina bifida a better chance at a normal life.
Published: Jul. 21, 2023 at 7:48 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects 1,500 babies born each year in the U.S. It happens when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. It can cause a range of disabilities including paralysis. An innovative surgery done before the baby is even born is giving these kids a better chance at a normal life.

When you first see Abigail Rose, all you see is that big grin and those pigtails, but this little girl has come a long way.

Abigail Rose’s mother, Alisha Staton, didn’t know what was wrong during her ultrasound at 18 weeks, but she knew something was wrong.

“She was diagnosed with spina bifida. We were told she’s not gonna walk, crawl, stand. She might not talk, she might not be able to eat on her own,” Staton painfully recalled.

Staton and her husband had three options — to terminate, to have surgery just hours after birth, or fix the problem before Abigail was born. They chose to do surgery while Abigail was still in the womb.

“We open the mother’s belly and then open the womb and expose the part of the child’s back that needs to be repaired. The repair is actually to cover and do a watertight seal of the defect in spina bifida,” explained Dr. Stephen Fenton, a pediatric surgeon at the University of Utah/Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

In a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found fetal surgery for spina bifida results in better walking, bladder control, and cognitive development.

“It has proven to be the biggest blessing we’ve done for her,” Staton expressed.

Abigail Rose was born prematurely, at 29 weeks. Now, two years old, she is on the move and charming everyone along the way.

Although outcomes are good, the risks are high. Many babies are born prematurely and there is a risk of death before delivery. Complications for the mother include bleeding and infection. This surgery is not an option for everyone. Mother and child need to meet a list of health requirements to be good candidates for the surgery.

Click here to report a typo.