A first of its kind surgery for the Cleveland Clinic on a baby still in her mama’s belly.



  • Birth defect impacting nearly 1,700 babies in America every year.
  • Affects the spine & spinal cord development when the neural tube (which forms the backbone) doesn’t close properly.
  • Discovered early in pregnancy a around 18 weeks.
  • Different levels of severity from few symptoms to very severe: brain damage or trouble walking.

What Happened

  • Doctors performed surgery on a baby in utero (still in motheras belly) with spina bifida.
  • Baby was *nearly* 23 weeks old
  • Docs made an incision (like a c-section) on the mother and operated on the baby, sealing the neural tube.
  • Baby tucked back into uterus, incision asealeda & baby continued to grow

aBy successfully repairing the defect before birth, weare allowing this child to have the best possible outcome and significantly improve her quality of life.”

Dr. Darrell Cass who led the team performing the fetal surgery. The Cleveland Clinic called the surgery a success on two metrics: 1. The baby was born later than most babies with spina bifida, giving her more time to develop. 2. Pressure on the brain that can lead to brain damage was relieved.

aMother and daughter are doing well.a The baby girl was born in early June. Dr. Cass says the baby will need ongoing support regardless of success of surgery. The Cleveland Clinic wasn't the first to perform this surgery but provided some unique elements for us to see it. View more:

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