DOCTORS performed keyhole surgery on an unborn baby with spina bifida — in the first op of its kind in the UK.
The surgeons say it is not a cure but could enable the child to walk.
Mum Sherrie Sharp, 29, had the revolutionary procedure when 27 weeks pregnant with son Jaxson.
She said her “miracle” baby is now moving his legs after being born six weeks later.
Sherrie was given a “number of options” after she was told her baby had spina bifida at her 20-week scan.
His spinal cord was bulging out of his back and his nerves were suffering damage, risking paralysis and incontinence.
Keyhole surgery was offered by specialists at King’s College Hospital in South London — but she was warned her baby could be born prematurely.
Sherrie, from Horsham, West Sussex, had received a blood transfusion at the same hospital while in her mum’s womb after developing anaemia.
She said: “I’m here today thanks to the specialists at King’s so I wanted my baby to have the same chance.”
Surgeons made three small cuts in her stomach, where they inserted a thin camera, light and tools into her womb.
They took the exposed spinal cord, freed it from surrounding tissue and pushed it back.
A special patch was used to cover the spinal cord before closing up the muscles and skin to prevent fluid leaking.
As well as Sherrie, doctors also sedated Jaxson during the three-hour procedure to prevent him from wriggling.
Until recently, surgeons would have waited to perform such a “delicate” op until the tot with spina bifida was born.
But evidence suggests surgery in the second trimester reduces nerve damage and the risk of long-term problems.
Baby Jaxson arrived early last month, at 33 weeks, and was looked after in neonatal intensive care.
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Sherrie said: “He’s got movements in his legs. We were told he’d have minimal movements if we didn’t have the surgery.
“I’ve got high hopes for him. From day one he’s done things, he’s amazed us all.
“He makes me proud every day — he’s just a miracle.”
King’s consultant Dr Marta Santorum-Pere said: “The foetus is very small and inside the womb, so obviously it’s a very delicate operation.”