Dr. Michael R. Harrison performed the first open fetal surgery in the world at UCSF in 1981. Operating on a fetus was an amazing accomplishment at that time and it was done to correct a dangerously advanced urinary tract obstruction. Dr. Harrison wanted to fix certain fetal anatomic defects before birth to avoid the devastating and sometimes irreversible consequences he encountered in newborns.
A good Fetal Treatment Center such as UCSF brings together specialists in pediatric surgery, genetics, obstetrics/perinatology, radiology, nursing, and neonatal medicine. Hospitals are known for their expertise in certain areas so it is always good to look at the area in which a hospital excels.
Fetal surgery is very scary and emotional for a mother. It’s important to have a family member, friend, or dedicated caregiver to support the mother. After surgery, the mother is on strict bed rest to prevent pre-term labor. Many surgeons will allow the patient to speak to previous patients to discuss their procedure and talk about what to expect.
Dr. Michael Harrison is known throughout the world for his research and surgery in the field. In 1984, Dr. Harrison published the first comprehensive textbook on fetal therapy, The Unborn Patient: Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment, now in its third edition. He is the recognized founder of fetal surgery as a specialty field in the U.S. and abroad. While many applaud our advances in medical technology, it is not without controversy. Monica J. Casper published a book titled, “The Making of the Unborn Patient: A Social Anatomy of Fetal Surgery.” She is a sociologist and her work includes medical humanities, critical trauma studies, and health disparities.