Foetuses: Surgery

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 6th February 2019.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the announcement, Spinal surgery for babies in the womb on the NHS, published by NHS England in December 2018, whether painkillers will be administered to the unborn baby; and at what age unborn babies will have that surgery.

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

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.

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