Abu Dhabi: Expecting parents can now visit a new monthly Foetal Neuro Clinic to obtain counselling and medical intervention in pregnancies from various prenatal medical experts.

The new clinic, the first of its kind in Abu Dhabi, is located in the Corniche Hospital (managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International). It partners its doctors with those from Shaikh Khalifa Medical City or SKMC (managed by the Cleveland Clinic). Both hospitals are part of the Seha HealthSystem at the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company.

"For pregnant women whose foetus has been diagnosed as having neurologic abnormalities, such as spina bifida [where the spinal cord protrudes through a defect in the vertebra of the spine], they are initially referred to Dr Gowri Ramanathan [obstetrician and foetal medicine specialist] in the Foetal Medicine Unit at Corniche Hospital," Dr Dominic Venne, head of neurosurgery at SKMC, explained. "Once the malformation is confirmed, the mother will be seen at the Foetal Neuro Clinic at Corniche Hospital and given comprehensive counselling. In urgent cases, surgery will be scheduled at SKMC for soon after the baby's birth," he said.

Cerebral endoscopy

"This recent concept is very important since such surgeries can improve the prognosis or can even save the life of these babies. These procedures include the insertion of shunts for hydrocephalus [an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain], cerebral endoscopy, and closure of the spinal defect," he added. Counselling sessions to plan for delivery are also available.

Postnatal care can be provided at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the Corniche Hospital and surgery will be performed at SKMC if necessary.

"A detailed ultrasound scan performed by a foetal medicine specialist can diagnose spina bifida in up to 99 per cent of cases. Although there is no cure for nerve damage due to spina bifida, it is important for early closure of the defect to prevent further damage of nerve tissue," Dr Andrew Meeks, head of neonatology at Corniche Hospital, said.

"Our combined clinic allows parents to discuss this before their child's birth in order to optimise all aspects of their baby's care including the best time for delivery," he added.