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Related image for article, Midwest Fetal Care Center physician explains open fetal surgery

Midwest Fetal Care Center physician explains open fetal surgery

Dr. Lillegard explains more about the new open fetal surgery program and the Midwest Fetal Care Center’s service

Related image for article, Baby Clara hasn’t let spina bifida slow down her amazing development

Baby Clara hasn’t let spina bifida slow down her amazing development

A new fetal surgery gives Clara an opportunity to thrive.

Midwest Fetal Care Center Launches Open Fetal Surgery Program

Children’s Minnesota and Allina Health announced that the Midwest Fetal Care Center added open fetal surgery to its pioneering fetal care program.

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is the most common congenital anomaly of the central nervous system in newborns occurring 1 in 3,000 live births.  Spina bifida, which literally means split spine, results when part of the spine does not form properly resulting in a portion of the spinal cord and neural elements being exposed to the amniotic fluid around the developing fetus. Sometimes the exposed neural elements of the spinal cord are covered by a sac, called a myelomeningocele. At other times the neural elements are completely uncovered leading to a myeloschisis. These exposed neural structures lead to progressive and permanent injury along with a loss of cerebral spinal fluid.   Babies born with spina bifida have major disabilities, including paralysis and neurologic disability in the lower limbs correlating with the level of injury to the spinal cord, bowel and bladder dysfunction and a build up of fluid in the brain called hydrocephalus as a result of hindbrain herniation.

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome

Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is a condition that occurs in about 10-15% of identical twins that share a placenta. When twins form from one egg and one sperm and divide at the appropriate time in gestation, they're in separate amniotic sacs, but have one placenta where they share a blood supply. Most of the time, this is a balanced communication between the twins. But in 10-15% of identical twin pregnancies, that communication becomes unbalanced, and one baby will actually donate blood to the other baby. When this happens, the baby that is donating the blood becomes dehydrated, stops making urine and we see a decrease in amniotic fluid volume. For the baby that's receiving the extra blood, we will see a volume-overload condition where the baby makes a lot of extra urine and has extra amniotic fluid. This condition can proceed to heart failure. TTTS can be fatal for both babies if it's not treated to stop the transfusion.

Congenital Lung Malformations

Congenital lung malformations (CLM) consist of a broad range of conditions that can affect a developing baby. These conditions can range from small asymptomatic cystic lung lesions to large lesions which may require treatment while your baby is still inside mom (in utero).  The most common of these lesions are bronchopulmonary sequestration and congenital pulmonary airway malformation (which used to be called cystic adenomatoid malformation –CCAM).


Omphalocele (uhm-fa-lo-seal) is a birth abnormality of the abdominal wall whereby the infant's intestines, liver, or other organs are contained within a sac that sticks outside the baby through the navel.


Gastroschisis (gas-tro-ski-sis) occurs when a baby is born with the bowel and sometimes other organs coming through an opening in the abdomen (belly).

Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia

The diaphragm muscle divides your chest and abdomen and it helps with breathing. Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) results from a hole in the diaphragm muscle. This hole is a birth defect that happens early in pregnancy and can allow a fetus' intestines, stomach and other abdominal organs, such as the spleen and the liver, to be displaced into the chest during development. It is a serious condition because the organs press against the baby’s lungs and interfere with their normal growth. Congenital diaphragmatic hernia is thought to occur in about one in 2,500 babies.

For Health Professionals

At Midwest Fetal Care Center, a collaboration between Children's Minnesota and Allina Health, we understand care involves an entire team. If your patient’s ultrasound results are abnormal, we’re here to help. As the largest program of its kind in the Upper Midwest, our fetal care program provides evaluation, diagnosis and intervention for high-risk pregnancies.