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Comprehensive Educational Program is Key to the Success of the Fetal Spina Bifida Program

View The Fetal Center Newsletter »

The Fetal Surgery for Spina Bifida Program at the The Fetal Center at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, established in 2011, continues to evaluate and care for patients across the state of Texas and throughout the United State. The goal of the program is to educate all patients during the evaluation process to help them fully comprehend the condition as well as the associated surgical and nonsurgical risks for both mother and baby.

When referred to the The Fetal Center with a fetal diagnosis of spina bifida, all patients are asked to review the Center's comprehensive spina bifida and fetal surgery educational video prior to their initial consultation. The educational video provides families with an overview of the condition, the history of the MOMs trial and inclusion criteria, as well as an overview for the surgical repair.

Once patients arrive at the Center for their initial consultation, they are provided with a comprehensive screening program to determine their candidacy for the fetal surgery. Qualified patients are evaluated and counseled by a multidisciplinary team of spina bifida and affiliated fetal surgery experts. A series of advanced fetal imaging tests is also performed, including fetal ultrasound, fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fetal echocardiography.

Over a span of two to three days, patients and their families meet with all affiliated members of the care team, including:

This thorough patient consultation process has been a key component to the growth of the Spina Bifida program. “We realized very early on that when we meet patients for the first time, they typically have had very little to no education provided about spina bifida,” says KuoJen Tsao, M.D., co-director of the Texas Fetal Center. “We do not expect families to make a truly informed decision about a very serious condition and high-risk surgical operation if they do not have a full understanding of the disease.”

According to Texas Fetal Center’s data, the ratio of patients evaluated to those that undergo fetal surgery is approximately 5 to 1. “We meet and evaluate more patients than those that undergo surgery,” says Dr. Tsao. “Many patients will not qualify for a variety of reasons; however we do have a proportion of patients that turn down the surgical procedure after going through the evaluations and educational program. After learning what life may be like for their family and their child born with spina bifida, they tell us ‘This isn’t so bad. We can handle this situation without the risks of fetal surgery.’ When that happens, we know we’ve done our best to educate the family and provide them with all of their options so they can make the best decision for their family.”

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Contact Us

For more information about spina bifida and the fetal surgery program, please visit us at texasfetalcenter.org/spina-bifida. To refer a patient, call toll free 1.888.818.4818.