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Spina Bifida: Surgery

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 217544, tabled on 6 February 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether painkiller will be administered to unborn babies with spina bifida who undergo spinal surgery; and at what age those unborn babies will undergo that surgery.

Answered on

14 February 2019

Spinal surgery for spina bifida for babies in the womb is among new, innovative treatments that will be routinely available on the National Health Service for the first time.

The procedure for unborn children with spina bifida, whose spine and spinal cord do not develop properly, allows pregnant women to be treated closer to home and their families.

Pain relief for the unborn baby will be delivered intra-operatively. This is administered before the fetal surgery, after the uterus is opened. The fetus will be monitored during the procedure by ultrasound to check the fetal heart rate. The surgery takes place between 20 and 26 weeks of gestation.

This proposed new treatment was independently assessed for its clinical benefit and cost by the Clinical Priorities Advisory Group comprising doctors, health experts and patient representatives.