Though more data is needed, the newer approach seems to have two major advantages, which were important to the Royers. It appears less likely to lead to a premature birth, which can cause many complications for the newborn. And it gives the mother a chance to have a vaginal delivery. Women who have the usual fetal surgery have to give birth by cesarean section, which poses risks for subsequent pregnancies.
For the Royers, the procedure, described in an Oct. 23 article in The New York Times, lived up to its promises. Mrs. Royer’s pregnancy lasted the full nine months, and she had a happy, uncomplicated vaginal birth with her husband by her side. Dr. Belfort delivered their son.
The infant’s back, which previously had the biggest defect the surgeons had ever repaired, now showed barely a hint of it. But incisions on his sides, made during the fetal surgery to loosen enough tissue to cover the hole in his back, had not closed. Those cuts usually heal on their own after birth, but one had a sizable lump of tissue bulging out and needed suturing.
Three hours after he was born, Baby Royer was on an operating table with three plastic surgeons stitching up his sides. The job took less than an hour.