Sylvester, Team Perform First In-Utero Surgery at LPCH

December 12, 2019

Earlier this year, Stanford's Division of Pediatric Surgery performed its first-ever fetal surgery. The surgery to repair the fetal myelomeningocele (also sometimes referred to as spina bifida or neural tube defect) was performed through a hysterotomy. 

"[Spina bifida] is one of the most common congenital anomalies, or birth defects and is associated with significant potential morbidity including most commonly leg paralysis, bowel or bladder incontinence, and hydrocephalus" said Dr. Karl Sylvester, one of the lead surgeons on the team. "Fetal surgery has shown promise in decreasing the degree of hydrocephalus, and possibly decreasing the severity of paralysis, leg weakness, and incontinence." 

Sylvester says it's early days yet, but the patient is doing well. 

"We have videos of the baby lying on her back and kicking her legs," said Sylvester. "So too early to tell long-term benefits, but short gains and benefits are very promising in this case."

Sylvester was joined by lead co-surgeons Dr. Yair Blumenfeld from OB-GYN (Maternal-Fetal Medicine) and Drs. Kelly Mahaney and Gerry Grant both from Pediatric Neurosurgery. Also on the team were Pediatric Surgery Fellow Dr. Enrico Danzer as well as Anesthesiologists Drs. Brendan Carvalho and Calvin Kwan and Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Shiraz Maskatia.