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Prenatal surgery may be preferable for spina bifida

Performing an operation preterm shows better results against the neural tube defect than waiting until the baby is born

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5:01pm, February 9, 2011

Delicate surgery performed on a fetus months before birth can improve the health of children born with spina bifida, a devastating neural tube defect caused by an opening in the spine, a new study shows. By comparing children who got surgery before or after birth, researchers find that a preterm operation improves the likelihood that a child with spina bifida will be able to walk and lessens the risk of other neurological complications.

But these potential gains must be weighed against a greater risk of premature birth associated with surgery in the womb. The findings appear online February 9 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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