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Zurich hospital pioneers prenatal surgery

Doctors at Zurich University Children’s Hospital have carried out surgery on foetuses still inside their mothers’ wombs.

The operations - the first of their kind outside the United States - were conducted on unborn children with spina bifida, a defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth.

The two successful surgical interventions were conducted late 2010 and in the middle of this year, Martin Meuli, director of surgery said on Thursday.

A hospital statement described the procedure as a major step for prenatal surgery in Europe.

Experts say a particular challenge of this kind of surgery is the fact that two distinct patients, the mother and the foetus, have to be anaesthetised, monitored and operated on simultaneously.

These kinds of operations to correct spina bifida are more successful when conducted before the birth, according to a US study.

One in a thousand foetuses in Switzerland every year is affected by spina bifida and about 30 children are born with this defect. and agencies

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