Spina Bifida Surgery | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment

After Fetal Surgery

As new families investigate fetal surgery for spina bifida, some past patients talk about how their children are progressing after receiving this groundbreaking surgery. See our Spina Bifida Snapshots.

Spina Bifida Surgery:
Your Experience Depends on Our Experience

By the Numbers More than 1,642Referrals for suspected Myelomeningocele (MMC)
More than 894Evaluations for suspected MMC199Fetal surgeries for MMC
All numbers reflect data from 1995-March 2014 at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Prenatal spina bifida surgery is one of the most exciting developments in the history of treatment for birth defects. It is also an extremely complex procedure that requires extensive experience to perform successfully. Mothers who choose fetal surgery require the most expert and carefully coordinated care from the time of diagnosis, for the spina bifida surgery itself, and through the baby's delivery and care afterwards.

Spina bifida is the most common birth defect of the central nervous system, affecting about 1,500 babies born each year in the United States. A new spina bifida surgery breakthrough, reported on in the New England Journal of Medicine, is providing new possibilities to families faced with this devastating condition.

Read the Benefits of Spina Bifida Surgery Press Release

Read the study abstract in the New England Journal of Medicine

Listen to a New England Journal of Medicine podcast about the article

“This is the first time in history that we can offer real hope to parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of spina bifida,” said N. Scott Adzick, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief and director of the CHOP Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. “This is not a cure, but this trial demonstrates scientifically that we can now offer fetal surgery as a standard of care for spina bifida.”

Today, that study continues, with important follow-up that will allow clinical teams to compare the lasting outcomes of prenatal repair verus standard postnatal repair. The ongoing participation of patient families and institutions involved in the original trial will provide valuable insight into the long-term effects of the latest treatment options for spina bifida, improving the standard of care for patients today and in the future.

Surgeons at CHOP's Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment were not only pioneers in fetal surgery, they developed the prenatal spina bifida surgery procedure and have the greatest collective experience in the world. The Center's large multidisciplinary team, including fetal surgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, fetal cardiologists and neonatologists, has worked together since 1995 — a level of ongoing collaboration that is unmatched.


Spina Bifida Surgery Breakthrough


Doctors and nurses discuss the long road to the first prenatal treatment for spina bifida.
Watch the video about the development of fetal surgery for spina bifida »

Experience Is Everything


The spina bifida surgery breakthrough is the fruit of our more than 30 years of research
Review our fetal surgery for spina bifida publications »

Making a Difference


Read about the difference prenatal spina bifida surgery at CHOP makes in the lives of children.
Mia Capuano's spina bifida prognosis »
Sean Mulligan's spina bifida diagnosis »


A dedicated team and specially designed facilities

The Center's facilities at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia — from a centralized area for prenatal diagnostic imaging to its dedicated fetal operating rooms, from the Special Delivery Unit to the renowned Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit — have been designed specifically for prenatal surgery patients and babies with birth defects.

We know that when you entrust your baby’s life to us for spina bifida surgery, experience is everything.

Questions to consider when you choose a center for prenatal spina bifida surgery


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Watch the Birth of a Breakthrough: Spina Bifida Video

The Birth of a Breakthrough Video explores spina bifida diagnosis, treatment options, delivery and follow-up care at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Resources for Professionals

Our Spina Bifida Toolkit is filled with resources for professionals, including information about our approach to treatment, surgical referral guidelines for in utero MMC repair and more.

In the News

Audrey underwent prenatal repair for spina bifida and marked an important milestone for the CFDT: 1,000 Fetal Surgeries »

In June 2011, reporters from NPR spent two days at CHOP following patient Sarah White's experience as she underwent fetal surgery for MMC, now a standard of care. Read the story »