Medical Minute 11-17:

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

He plays with passion. Shooting hoops and making baskets. Evan Terrell is not just something special on the court. Evan Terrell is nothing short of a medical miracle.

"Most people would never know he had spina bifida. Nothing slows him down," said Kristie Terrell.

Doctors first diagnosed him in the womb. His tiny spinal cord stuck out of his back. The defect often leads to difficulty walking and brain damage.

"We never, at that point, expected the running or the jumping or the kicking or the sprinting or any of the other wonderful things that he's able to do."

But because of surgery done before Evan was even born, when his mom was just 24 weeks pregnant, he can do all that and more.

"You make a small incision in the uterus. We don't take the baby out of the uterus. We just position the baby, so we can see what's important to us and fix it."

Results of the seven-year trial show fetal surgery significantly reduces the risk of water on the brain and paralysis. Doctor Noel Tulipan pioneered the surgery at Vanderbilt University.

"One of the beauties of a fetus is that they heal much better than even a baby, and before a certain age, they can actually heal without a scar," said Noel Tulipan, M.D., Professor and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Another benefit? 90-percent of babies born with spina bifida will need a shunt to relieve fluid buildup in the brain. Prenatal surgery cuts that risk in half. Giving kids like Evan the chance to do what boys do.

"It always makes me nervous to see him jump, but I always let him jump cause I never thought I would see it," said Brian Terrell.

Another score for medicine.

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