Experimental studies have shown that there is a potential to attempt in utero repair of myelomeningocele in human fetuses. To provide a better understanding of the pathology of these lesions we prospectively studied eight stillborn human fetuses with myelomeningocele autopsied at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. The intact vertebral column with surrounding structures was removed, processed as a single block, and prepared as serial histologic sections. Study of the slides showed in all cases that in the center of the myelomeningocele the vertebral arch was open, the arrangement of meninges was such that the dura mater was open and in continuity with the deep layers of the dermis, and the pia mater was open and in continuity with a layer consisting of the superficial dermis and the epidermis. These meningeal relationships created an abnormally configured arachnoid space containing cerebrospinal fluid ventral to the spinal cord, which rested on the open pia mater and was exposed on the dorsal aspect of the sac. At the level of the myelomeningocele the naked cord had undergone varying degrees of injury up to complete loss of neural tissue. Where ventral remnants of the cord remained it was evident that a large degree of normal development of the cord had occurred. In most instances it appeared that the injury or destruction of the dorsal spinal cord was recent and consistent with occurrence during delivery. The results of this study support the concept that in utero surgery could preserve and protect the exposed spinal cord in a myelomeningocele of a human fetus and thus could reduce the severity of the neurologic deficit at birth.
- birth injury
- fetal surgery
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine