NHS to carry out spinal surgery for unborn babies

Spinal surgery for unborn babies is to become routinely available on the NHS next spring, it has been announced.The life-changing procedure, performed while the baby is still in the womb, will help babies with spina bifida, whose spine and spinal cord are not properly developing, NHS England said.Surgery to repair the spinal tissue can reduce the likelihood of bladder, bowel and kidney conditions later in life, and improve walking, professionals say.It is one of several treatments which will become routinely offered on the NHS for the first time from April 2019.The surgery was carried out for the first time in Britain in the summer. The spina bifida surgeries were successfully performed by a team at London’s University College Hospital this summer. More than 300 people with tuberous sclerosis complex, mostly children, will benefit from the new drug everolimus.This reduces the number and severity of epileptic seizures as a result of the genetic condition, which causes tumours to develop in the body and brain.And a tablet to widen blood vessels will help those with pulmonary arterial hypertension, which causes high blood pressure, avoid damage to the heart.Professor Stephen Powis, medical director for NHS England, said the NHS was a world leader in innovation.He said: “NHS England is determined to ensure every penny is wisely spent, maximising the money available for life-saving, life-changing medicines and procedures like these.”Kate Steele, chief executive of charity Shine, said the announcement was “very good news” for babies with spina bifida.She said: “Pre-natal surgery has been practised for several years in other countries, but now that the surgery is set to be procured in the UK will mean that far fewer parents-to-be will have to travel abroad and stay far from home for the surgery.”They will be closer to the important family and medical support networks they will need before, during and after surgery.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.

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