Saint Louis, MO (PRWEB) November 15, 2012
When Northeast Arkansas resident Nicole Rivera and husband Gilbert discovered a groundbreaking surgery that could help improve the health of their unborn baby, they packed their bags and headed to St. Louis, Mo., where doctors at the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute had the experience and expertise to perform a fetal myelomeningocele repair on their little girl before she was born.
Myelomeningocele, the most severe form of spina bifida, is caused when the back's bones do not come together during development to protect the spinal cord. “This results in exposed nerves and damage to the spinal cord as the pregnancy continues. It can cause paralysis, kidney problems, and lack of bowel or bladder control,” says Dr. Mike Vlastos, director of the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
The in-utero surgery performed at the Fetal Care Institute closes this gap, reducing or even eliminating major complications including the lack of movement in the lower extremities. In addition to protecting the spinal cord, the surgery can also help reverse an Arnold Chiari II malformation. “When this happens the brain is positioned further down into the upper spinal column than normal,” Vlastos says. “The normal flow of fluid out of the brain is obstructed, causing hydrocephalus, an excess of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain. After they are born, most children with hydrocephalus need to have the extra fluid shunted out of the brain into the abdomen via a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt. Fetal surgery has been shown to reduce the need for this shunt.”
Rivera underwent the operation when she was almost 21 weeks pregnant. This involves a team of surgeons making a small opening in the uterus, then closing the spinal cord opening and repairing the womb. Despite a successful surgery, Rivera faced more than a month of strict hospital bedrest after a pregnancy complication threatened the life of her unborn baby Adriana. On Nov. 11, 2011, Adriana made her entrance to the world at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center in St. Louis.
Now, a year later, Adriana is developing and growing at a normal rate while busily crawling around the house. She has not required a VP shunt, and appears to have full use of her lower extremities.
Dr. Vlastos and Fetal Care Institute Care Coordinator Katie Francis will be in Rogers, AK from the evening of Nov. 15 until 10 a.m. Nov. 16 to visit with local maternal-fetal medicine specialists. “Our hope is to help moms and babies from around the country who are facing this diagnosis.”
History of Fetal Myelomeningocele Repair
In May 2011, The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute was one of the first centers to offer the surgery following the release of the MOMS (Management of Myelomeningocele) trial results. In this National Institute of Health (NIH) sponsored trial, patients facing a spina bifida diagnosis were randomly assigned to undergo fetal surgery or receive standard postnatal surgery. It was found that babies who have the fetal surgery often have better outcomes than those who receive the standard repair surgery after birth.
About The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute
The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute is a partnership between SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, SSM St. Mary’s Health Center, and Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Bringing together renowned maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialists, pediatric and fetal surgeons, specialized nurses, cutting-edge technology, and a family-oriented approach, The Institute offers state-of-the-art diagnostic methods and treatment options for families whose unborn babies are facing medical challenges. It is the leading comprehensive fetal care program in Middle America offering a variety of fetal interventions and treatments, including open and minimally invasive fetal surgery for babies in the womb.