‘She’s Wiggling Her Toes’: New Fetal Surgery for Spina Bifida May Be Safer for Both Baby and Mom

May 28, 2019

(STAT News) – About a decade ago, Chmait heard about a pioneering Brazilian scientist and surgeon, Dr. Denise Lapa, who had spent years developing a way to repair spina bifida in the womb without making large incisions in the uterus or the abdomen. (Brazil, where abortion is illegal and malnutrition is more common, has a high rate of spina bifida.) Lapa has done nearly 100 of the surgeries and, according to Chmait, helped with the first one performed in the United States, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital last year; it was not publicized. For years, Chmait has traveled to Brazil to observe and learn the technique, in which the uterus and fetus remain inside the body during the procedure.

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