Your Health: Spina bifida breakthrough

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 4:22 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Spina bifida is a birth defect that impacts 1,500 babies born annually in the United States.

It happens when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. It can cause a range of disabilities, including paralysis.

When you first see Abigail Rose, all you see is a big grin and pigtails, but she’s come a long way.

Alisha Staton didn’t know what was wrong during her ultrasound at 18 weeks, but she knew something was wrong.

“We didn’t know what we were looking at, but we knew it just looked, her back looked abnormal,” Staton recalled. “She was diagnosed with Spina Bifida. We were told she’s not going to walk, crawl, stand. She might not talk, she might not be able to eat on her own.”

Stanton and her husband had three options - to terminate, to have surgery just hours after birth or fix the problem before Abigail was born. They chose to do surgery while Abigail was still in the womb.

“We open the mother’s belly and then open the womb and expose the part of the child, the back that needs to be repaired,” said Dr. Stephen Fenton. “The repair is actually to cover and do a watertight seal of the back, of the defect in spina bifida.”

In a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found fetal surgery for spina bifida results in better walking, bladder control and cognitive development.

Abigail was born prematurely at 29 weeks. She’s now 2 years old, on the move and charming everyone along the way.

More: Your Health

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