First for North Texas: Baby Undergoes Surgery While in Womb - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

First for North Texas: Baby Undergoes Surgery While in Womb

Now, at almost two months old, Uriah is kicking his legs, signaling early success from leading-edge surgery for spina bifida

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    First For North Texas: Baby Undergoes Surgery While In Womb

    A baby from Terrell is the first to undergo a life-changing surgery in North Texas. Doctors performed the open fetal surgery on him while he was inside his mother's womb in hopes of overcoming a devastating birth defect. (Published Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018)

    At 19 weeks pregnant, Sarah Prowell learned her unborn son had spina bifida. 

    Spina bifida is a birth defect caused when the spine and spinal cord do not form properly, in many cases leaving a portion of the spine exposed. 

    Without medical intervention, the condition causes differing levels of disability, which can include paralysis and lifelong bladder issues.

    The Terrell mom was referred to Dr. Timothy Crombleholme, director of the newly opened Fetal Care Center at Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas.

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    "The open fetal surgery opens up the opportunity for us to intervene at a time when things are not irreparable. We can intervene and save the baby's life or prevent unknown injury to the baby's organs," Crombleholme said.

    Prior to Crombleholme's arrival to North Texas earlier this year, families of babies diagnosed with the most common and severe form of spina bifida, called myelomeningocele, had to travel elsewhere for open fetal surgery.

    Because spinal cord damage is progressive during gestation, prenatal repair of myelomeningocele may prevent further damage.

    "A few years ago, if they came to our practice with this spina bifida problem, they would have had to travel to the east coast, Houston or the west coast to have this surgery," said Dr. Kevin Magee, maternal and fetal medicine at Medical City Children's Hospital.

    Crombleholme is one of only a handful of surgeons nationwide qualified to perform open fetal surgery and he is widely recognized for his skill and successful surgical outcomes. 

    Baby Uriah became his first North Texas patient on June 25, 2018. Now, at almost two months old, Uriah is kicking his legs, signaling early success from leading-edge surgery for spina bifida. 

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    "He will have lifelong difficulties, but it's not going to slow him down," Uriah's father, Sean Kirby, said.

    "He's doing so good, better than we thought he'd be," Sarah Prowell said. "I think he'll be very determined. I think he will impress us and everyone else, like he has so far."

    You can follow his progress here.

    Fetal surgery for spina bifida is not a cure, but studies show that it repair can lead to better results than traditional repair surgery after a child is born. 

    The surgery greatly reduces the need to divert fluid from the brain, improves mobility and improves the chances that a child will be able to walk independently, doctors said.

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