On November 14, a press conference was held at Mount Sinai Hospital to announce the first in-utero spina bifida surgery in Canada. Teams from Mount Sinai and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) successfully repaired a form of spina bifida in a fetus at 25 weeks gestation. The baby’s mother, Romeila Son, recovered very well from surgery and a bouncing baby girl, Eiko, weighing 2.45 kg, was born on August 19 at 36 weeks gestation at Mount Sinai. Since her birth, Eiko has needed no further intervention for this usually debilitating condition. This was the first case in Canada where the mother did not have to travel to the United States for this specialized procedure.
The surgery was led by Mount Sinai’s Dr. Greg Ryan along with Dr. James Drake from SickKids. Working in collaboration with colleagues from Vanderbilt University in Nashville who pioneered the procedure, a team of 24 clinicians led by Drs. Ryan and Drake successfully carried out the 2.5 hour in-utero procedure at Mount Sinai on June 4, 2017.
“I am extremely proud of the collaboration between Mount Sinai Hospital and SickKids which has resulted in a terrific outcome for this baby girl,” said Dr. Ryan. “Although fetal surgery will not be appropriate for all fetuses with spina bifida, it is extremely encouraging that, for some, it may preserve neuro-motor function, reverse brain herniation and reduce their need for a brain shunt.” Dr. Ryan noted, however, that this surgery also entails some maternal and fetal risks, particularly that of premature labour, and so the pros and cons must be carefully weighed. Nevertheless, “having this kind of clinical capacity here in Ontario will really change the range of options available to parents who have been given a diagnosis of spina bifida during pregnancy,” Dr. Ryan said.
The press conference received national media attention, including a front page story in the Toronto Star, and was attended by The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario. During the event, Eiko’s family received a warm welcome and mom Romeila shared her extraordinary story and thanked the teams from Mount Sinai and SickKids: “You all have a special place in our lives and in our hearts.”
You can find media coverage of this surgery here.