Crombleholme, at a previous program in Cincinnati, operating on a fetus that is 23 weeks old. Courtesy of Cincinnati Children's Hospital

Medicine

A First Baby Is Born In Dallas After Open Fetal Surgery For Spina Bifida

An early milestone for Dr. Timothy Crombleholme's team at Medical City Dallas.

For the October issue of D Magazine, I wrote about the jaw-dropping medical advancement that is open fetal surgery, which this year found its way to North Texas through a new program at Medical City Dallas. Today, an update: Medical City tells us the program has yielded its first baby born after a successful in-womb surgery for spina bifida. That means it’s also the first in North Texas. Uriah Prowell was born to Sarah Prowell, of Terrell, on Aug. 15—the hospital made it public on Friday.

During open fetal surgery for spina bifida, a surgeon cuts into the mom’s abdomen, “exteriorizes” the uterus, cuts into it, and then operates on the fetus. Uriah was diagnosed around 18 weeks gestation, and the surgery carried through about four weeks later. Spina bifida occurs when the tube of the embryo containing the brain and spinal cord doesn’t fully close, which can cause the backbone to protrude, potentially damaging the spinal cord and nerves. Paralysis is among the potential outcomes, but operating on these babies before they’re born has shown the ability to enhance motor skills and enhance the odds that a kid ends up being able to walk.

“It gives him a better chance of his condition not getting worse and needing extra surgery later on,” says 21-year-old Sarah Prowell. Doctors will continue to monitor Uriah’s condition. Within the first couple days, he started kicking his legs—a good sign. Sarah says that’s still happening today.

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