The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health Offers Cutting-edge Fetoscopic Spina Bifida Repair Surgery

February 04, 2021

The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health, a regional leader in integrated care for pregnant women with fetal complications, now offers an innovative fetoscopic option for spina bifida repair. Additionally, in December the team marked the important milestone of completing 100 fetal surgeries, underscoring the Chicago Institute’s reputation as regional leader and pioneer in interventional fetal medicine.

The Chicago Institute at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is the most experienced center in Illinois offering the fetoscopic spina bifida repair, a minimally invasive technique that may reduce risks for the mother and the baby while preserving the option for a vaginal delivery. In addition, these babies in many cases have better long-term prognoses.

“This approach requires an entirely different technical proficiency and instrumentation from open repair and is part of the commitment by the institute to pursue substantive advancements in fetal medicine,” said Director of The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health, Aimen Shaaban, MD, who is an expert in fetal intervention surgery.

Mila, left, when she was born following interventional surgery for spina bifida repair. At right, Mila today at age three.

Meanwhile, marking 100 fetal surgeries means the institute has had thousands of patient encounters, helping preserve and improve many lives, and advancing treatments for some of the most complicated fetal conditions, said Dr. Shaaban.

Kylie Mattioda was among them. In 2017, Kylie was pregnant with her daughter Mila when she discovered her baby had hydrocephalus, fluid on the brain that can lead to brain damage, and spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord fail to form properly, prohibiting the ability to walk and grow if not corrected.

Robin M. Bowman, MD, Co-Director of Fetal Neurosurgery at The Chicago Institute and Director of Lurie Children’s Multidisciplinary Spina Bifida Center; Dr. Shaaban, and their team performed interventional surgery, fixing the defect on Mila’s back while she remained in Kylie’s uterus.

Today, Mila is three years old, enjoying preschool, meeting milestones on time and learning in physical therapy to walk without assistance from her walker. She continues to receive care from Dr. Bowman through the Multidisciplinary Spina Bifida Center.

Mila, right, with her brother Gianluca. Mila is learning to walk without using her walker.

“We’re always having to tell Mila, ‘please slow down,’” Kylie said. “Her progress since birth is so comforting. I can breathe now, and not feel the constant worry.”

The institute continues to expand, pioneering research to further enhance therapies and treatments for conditions such as congenital diaphragmatic hernia, fetal lung lesions and congenital heart defects. The institute’s physical presence in 2020 also grew, more than tripling its space in the Regenstein Fetal Health Suite on the fifth floor of Lurie Children’s main hospital, allowing much of the testing and care families may need in one location.

“Upon completing 100 surgical cases, our team takes time to pause, reflect and renew our commitment to you, the patient,” Dr. Shaaban said.

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For more information about The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health, please visit