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Fetal Surgery: Better Odds for Spina Bifida Kids

Better Chances but No Guarantees With Pre-birth Surgery for Spina Bifida

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Fetal surgery for spina bifida is not an unmitigated success, note Joe Leigh Simpson, MD, of Florida International University and Michael F. Greene, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in an editorial accompanying the Farmer report.

Simpson and Greene note that for 10 years, all fetal surgeries for spina bifida in the U.S. were carried out by the three medical centers involved in the Farmer study. As other medical centers take on patients, surgeons may not have the same rate of success while they gain experience with the procedure.

Moreover, they write, the open surgery required for the prenatal procedure is risky -- and does not help a large proportion of kids.

"Surely the greatest benefit would derive from a less traumatic approach," Simpson and Greene write. "The still suboptimal rates of poor neonatal outcome and high maternal risk necessitate the use of less invasive approaches if such procedures are to be widely implemented."

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