Fetal surgery, a procedure in which surgery is performed on an unborn baby (fetus), is offered in some conditions to improve the long-term outcome after delivery.

For example, surgeons might perform open fetal surgery if a fetus has been diagnosed before birth (prenatally) with spina bifida.

In one type of spina bifida, myelomeningocele, an opening in the skin on the fetus' back causes part of the spinal cord and coverings to be exposed to amniotic fluid in the uterus. If your doctor finds your unborn baby has myelomeningocele, your doctor might suggest open fetal surgery to treat the condition.

In some cases, fetal surgery has better results than surgery after delivery.

Clinical trials

Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

Fetal surgery care at Mayo Clinic

April 17, 2019
  1. McLone DG, et al. Overview of the management of myelomeningocele (spina bifida). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 9, 2015.
  2. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Committee on Obstetric Practice. Committee Opinion No, 550, Maternal-fetal surgery. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2013;121:218.
  3. Adzick NS. Fetal surgery for spina bifida: Past, present and future. Seminars in Pediatric Surgery. 2013;22:10.


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