Please note that we are seeing high patient volumes in the emergency department. Learn more >>.

Know before you go to the ER
Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web

Fetal Surgery

Some unborn babies have medical conditions that require surgery while still in the womb or immediately following birth. Our specialists at the Fetal Care Center excel at performing the most complex fetal surgeries. We treat certain serious fetal conditions early to increase your unborn baby’s chances of survival and good health after birth.

We know this can be a frightening time, and our fetal care team is always by your side. We make sure you understand the entire treatment process so you can make the best decision for your unborn baby.

Fetal Surgery at the Fetal Care Center

Surgeons at the Fetal Care Center use minimally invasive procedures during fetal surgeries, when possible. These procedures require smaller incisions and have less risk of complications for you and your unborn baby.

Some conditions such as spina bifida may require open surgery, meaning doctors operate on the unborn baby through an incision much like a cesarean section, or C-section.

The fetal surgeries available at the Fetal Care Center include, but are not limited to:

  • Ex utero intrapartum treatment (EXIT): Your doctor partially delivers your baby via C-section and a pediatric otolaryngologist performs a procedure to open the baby’s blocked airway. This process allows your baby to get oxygen via the attached umbilical cord and placenta. Once the surgeon clears the airway, we deliver your baby.
  • Fetoscopy: Your doctor uses a small camera, or fetoscope, to guide surgery for conditions such as:
  • Fetal surgery for spina bifida: This procedure involves opening the uterus via C-section and performing surgery to close an opening in an unborn baby’s spinal cord.
  • Shunting: Your doctor inserts a shunt, or hollow tube, into your unborn baby’s blocked bladder or lung to drain excess fluid.

After Fetal Surgery

Any type of fetal surgery increases the risk for complications, especially early labor and delivery. You can expect to take these precautionary steps:

  • Following surgery, you stay overnight or longer at the Women & Infants Center.
  • After discharge, your doctor closely monitors your health and the health of your unborn baby for the remainder of your pregnancy.

Pediatric Surgery at St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Many conditions require treatment after your baby is born. We partner with pediatric surgeons at St. Louis Children’s Hospital to provide comprehensive surgery options for newborns.

Learn more about pediatric surgical services at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University fetal care specialist at the Women & Infants Center, call 855.925.0631.