Sheikh Hamdan meets medics who carried out rare surgery in Dubai

Crown Prince of Dubai praises team for successful operation that was a first for the region

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Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, met a team of medics on Tuesday to congratulate them on a successful rare surgery that they performed on an unborn Emirati baby.

Surgeons at Latifa Hospital for Women and Children corrected the defective spine of the 25-week-old male foetus while he was still in the womb.

The Emirati mother, 24, is from Fujairah.

The delicate six-hour operation on the 700g foetus was the first procedure of its kind in the region. It corrected the unborn baby's myelomeningocele, a form of spina bifida.

"I am proud to see this inspiring team bring hope and relief to an Emirati family preparing to welcome their healthy child," Sheikh Hamdan said.

"Our expert Emirati medical talents continue to uplift our confidence in our healthcare services. To all our medical and nursing staff, you are extremely valued. Thank you for your tireless efforts. The health and happiness of our society is in your hands."

The meeting was held at Sheikh Hamdan’s residence in Nad Al Sheba and was also attended by Humaid Al Qutami, director general of Dubai Health Authority.

The team told Sheikh Hamdan how extreme precision was needed for the delicate surgery.

It required opening the uterus but in a different way to a Caesarean section. An incision from the back of the uterus was done in layers, without opening the membrane containing the protective amniotic fluid and foetus.

Surgeons meticulously opened the membrane, then used special tools to extend the incision to access the six centimetre lesion on the baby's spinal cord that needed repair.

That allowed neurosurgeon Dr Mohammad Al Olama to correct the defect in a separate, 50-minute procedure.

Only 12 countries in the world are currently performing this type of surgery.

“This is an extremely delicate but important procedure to correct existing deformity, prevent further deformity and help the baby grow,” Dr Al Olama said.

“It allows the baby to develop organs in the womb without any complications so that it can be as healthy as possible when born.”

Traditionally, the defect is repaired during the first days after birth.

But studies have shown that corrective surgery between 22 and 25 weeks of gestation in an unborn foetus increases chances of the child being able to walk.