Surgery is now possible before a baby is even born and can now be performed on subjects just 22 weeks after conception. But how do you check up on a patient when it's gone back into the womb? Doctors are now using technology developed for astronauts to monitor the health of unborn surgical patients. A tiny radio transmitter can be implanted into the foetus or the mother's uterus. This sends information about vital signs to doctors.
Foetal surgery inevitably causes premature birth and the device can also help here. If contractions are caught early enough, drugs can stop the delivery process, allowing the tiny patient more time to rest and recover before facing the outside world. Foetal Surgery is about to enter the mainstream of medical practice.
Up till now only life threatening birth defects have been considered for treatment because foetal surgery is almost invariably followed by a premature birth - itself a life threatening complication. But thanks to a combination of less invasive surgery and a new transmitter monitoring pill, serious but not fatal birth defects can now be safely treated.
The monitoring pill is inserted inside the womb alongside the foetus. It warns when contractions begin and gives doctors a chance to hold back the onset of premature labour.
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