A baby who underwent surgery while still in her mother’s womb has made “astonishing” progress.
Doctors performed pioneering surgery on Frankie Lavis, who has spina bifida, when mother Gina was 24 weeks pregnant. Spina bifida occurs when a section of the spinal column does not form properly, which can expose the spinal cord to toxic chemicals in the womb.
Having carried out online research and spoken with doctors in Plymouth she went to Belgium four weeks later to undergo surgery carried out by Prof Deprest. He cut through the womb and operated on the baby’s spine to close the hole caused by spina bifida. The operation aims to avert further damage and prevent the build-up of potentially harmful fluid. Mrs Lavis gave birth at 35 weeks and was thrilled to see the success of the operation.
Dr Ross Welch, consultant at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, said: “I’m astonished by Frankie. The improvement over what we would have expected without the prenatal surgery is really very impressive.”
Mrs Lavis said Frankie was growing into a “normal, healthy little girl”.
She said: “Frankie is Frankie. Spina bifida is just a small part of her.”
The surgery was first developed at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia in the US, where it has been performed more than 200 times.