SURGEONS have carried out the UK’s first keyhole surgery for a baby with spina bifida while he was still in the womb.

The procedure, at King’s College Hospital, London, does not offer a cure for the condition but could make the difference in whether a child is able to walk.

Sherrie Sharp, from Horsham, had the operation when she was 27 weeks’ pregnant with her son Jaxson after her 20-week scan showed problems with how his spine was forming.

His spinal cord was bulging out of his back and his nerves were suffering damage, with the potential to lead to a range of health problems.

Ms Sharp, 29, decided to undergo the operation even though she knew there was a risk her son would be born prematurely.

Surgeons made three small incisions into her stomach and then a thin camera with a light at the end and small surgical tools were inserted into her womb.

Surgeons were able to take the exposed spinal cord which was protruding through a hole in Jaxson’s back and free it from surrounding tissue. They pushed it back into place and a special patch was used to cover the spinal cord.

Ms Sharp herself was also treated at King’s as a baby in the womb after she developed severe anaemia and needed blood transfusions.

She said: “When we found out Jaxson had spina bifida I was given a number of options. We knew we wanted to keep our baby and I’m here today thanks to the specialists at King’s so I wanted my baby to have the same chance.

“The procedure took over three hours and the specialists were happy with how it went.

“We’re thrilled with our beautiful boy and even though he arrived earlier than expected, he’s doing well and his back is healing nicely.”

Until recently, women carrying a baby with spina bifida who decide to continue with their pregnancy could choose to repair the hole in their baby’s back after birth or opt for invasive surgery.