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Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2008 Feb;22(1):175-88. Epub 2007 Aug 22.

Fetal surgery for neural tube defects.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 6th Floor Wood Bldg, 34th St. and Civic Center Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Open spina bifida remains a major source of disability despite an overall decrease in incidence. It is frequently diagnosed prenatally and can thus - potentially - be treated by fetal surgery. Animal studies and preliminary human studies strongly suggest that at least a portion of the neurological abnormalities seen in these patients are secondary, and occur in mid-gestation. It is estimated that approximately 400 fetal operations have now been performed for myelomeningocele world wide. Despite this large experience, the technique remains of unproven benefit. Preliminary results suggest that fetal surgery results in reversal of hindbrain herniation (the Chiari II malformation), a decrease in shunt-dependent hydrocephalus, and possibly improvement in leg function, but these findings might be explained by selection bias and changing management indications. A randomized prospective trial (the MOMS trial) is currently being conducted by three centers in the United States, and is estimated to be completed in 2009.

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