It’s amazing to think about all the medical discoveries and advancements that have developed since I started medical school in 1992.
One exciting area that has enjoyed significant progress is prenatal care. It wasn’t that long ago that many serious neurological conditions affecting a baby couldn’t be discovered until birth. Now, though, with quality prenatal care by a competent OB/GYN physician, many fetal conditions can be diagnosed during pregnancy and corrected while the baby is still in the womb.
One example is spina bifida, a condition where at least one vertebra in the spine is only partly formed. Spina bifida is the most common permanently-disabling birth defect. This medical condition changes the way that the brain, spine, and spinal cord develop. The spinal cord doesn’t develop properly below the level of the deformity.
Spina bifida commonly affects the lumbar and sacral spine, which are the lower levels in the back. This means that many patients with spina bifida will have problems including loss of bowel and bladder control and inability to walk. Most people with spina bifida will have to use a wheelchair to get around.
Many patients with spina bifida will have hydrocephalus, commonly called water in the brain. Hydrocephalus is caused by an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain because it doesn’t drain properly.
The most severe type of spina bifida is called myelomeningocele. In this type of spina bifida, the spinal column (back bone) and spinal canal don’t close before birth. Babies with this condition have a characteristic bubble or sac popping out of their lower back. The bubble or sac contains spinal nerves and spinal fluid.
Spina bifida is a condition that can often be identified on a prenatal ultrasound, which is usually done in an OB/GYN’s office or nearby. Some patients may benefit from a prenatal fetal repair of spina bifida with myelomeningocele.
In this amazing procedure, a fetal surgical team makes an incision in the mother’s uterus and surgically repairs the baby’s myelomeningocele defect. The surgery includes removing the bubble or sac, if present; repositioning the spinal cord in the spinal canal; and then closing the tissue and skin to protect the spinal cord.
The surgery is typically done between 19 to 25 weeks into the pregnancy. Because spina bifida is a progressive neurological injury, the earlier it’s diagnosed and surgically treated, the better the outcome for the baby, including:
* More likely that the baby will be able to walk independently.
* Less likely that the baby will have hydrocephalus complications requiring shunt placement to divert spinal fluid from the brain.
We are here to help
As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve investigated and handled numerous birth injury lawsuits in Houston, throughout Texas, and in other cases. This includes situations where an OB/GYN should have identified and treated a severe medical condition in the baby during the prenatal period.
When a little one suffers a severe neurological injury, the emotional and financial impact on the family is significant. A top-rated medical malpractice and birth injury attorney can help a family evaluate their potential case with the goal of obtaining financial resources to provide the best care and quality of life for the injured child.