Tag Archives: spina bifida

Breakthrough in-utero surgery treats devastating birth defect

Photo from University of Pittsburgh

From NY Post: This baby went under the knife — from inside the womb.

Emery Greene Mullin was born two months after a January operation to correct her spina bifida. She is one of the first babies to undergo the surgery in-utero.

The potentially fatal condition occurs when the spine doesn’t fully fuse with the backbone, exposing it to amniotic fluid. This can lead to severe health issues, including hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, which can impair motor function.

As a pediatric intensive care nurse at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital, Emery’s mom, Allee, has worked with kids who have spina bifida. She found out about her own daughter’s condition while 20 weeks pregnant.

“It’s a devastating diagnosis,” Dr. Stephen Emery told WTAE News. He was one of the operating surgeons at UPMC Magee Women’s Hospital, along with Dr. Stephanie Greene.

Although the surgery brought serious risks for both Emery and Allee, it potentially meant “the difference between not walking and walking,” Dr. Greene told WTAE.

Emery was born with her back fully healed, and a postnatal neurological exam yielded promising results.

“She can’t point her toes down quite all the way with one foot,” said Dr. Greene. But, she added, this is still a huge improvement. “To be fair…she shouldn’t have had movement below her knees.”

Allee was so grateful to the doctors she named her baby after them: Emery Greene. “It’s really emotional,” Greene said. “It’s the highest honor I could imagine somebody giving me.”

Read the whole story here at the University of Pittsburgh web site.

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British boy born “without brain” given a chance at life

From NY Post: A British boy born with just 2 percent of his brain defied the odds and is now a happy 6-year-old — after it “grew back.”

Shelley and Rob Wall, from Cumbria, in northwest England, were advised to terminate the pregnancy five times after finding out that their baby had “no brain.” Dad Rob said that many doctors believed his unborn son had not developed a brain.

Incredibly, however, by the time Noah was 3 years old his brain had grown to 80 percent of the normal size.

Now doctors believe Noah’s brain had actually just been squashed into a small space — and that after he had a shunt fitted, it grew back to where it should have been.

The youngster, now 6 years old, appeared on “Good Morning Britain” with his parents to share his extraordinary story, which host Richard Madley called “a miracle.”

“Even if his brain had been so squashed up, he’d be severely mentally disabled because of all that damage and look at him — he’s as bright as a button,” said Noah’s father.

He explained that because they were older parents, the couple was more resistant to doctors’ calls to terminate the pregnancy. “I think possibly if younger people were offered that choice, they may have felt pressured into taking it. Because we’re older parents, we know our own minds and we’re positive people. We wanted to give Noah the chance of life.

And it paid off big time.

Doctors told the parents that their son would be severely mentally disabled — unable to talk, see, hear or eat. Then they also discovered that Noah had spina bifida and gave him very little chance of surviving. But the 6-year-old can do all of those things.

Noah was born 11/11 at 11 o’clock.

“We waited with bated breath and they put a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ notice on Noah,” recalled mom of three Shelley. Now the pair have dedicated their time to his brain development, even flying him to Australia to a radical brain training center, where he learned how to sit up unaided and even managed to go surfing.

Noah now wants to learn to walk and wants to continue learning how to surf and even start skiing.

The treatment that Noah’s been having in Australia is called “neurophysics” — a mixture of physiotherapy and cognitive exercises.

Noah’s father explained that typically doctors don’t usually undertake the therapy with children because of the cognitive side of things, however, they were lucky enough to be able to persuade them to see and assess Noah and prepare them for when he’s old enough to have that cognitive treatment.

“It’s all to do with the brain’s ability to heal or correct the body’s nervous system,” he said.

The doctors who initially met with Noah and his mother in the UK admit that the youngster is “extraordinary.”

The family now sends them emails, pictures and updates about Noah’s progress, and he even goes to visit and bring them presents at Christmas.

English actress Daniella Westbrook tweeted the show to say that Noah was the “cutest little boy” — something which seemed to delight the boy who keeps proving doctors wrong.

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