Orlando Health Celebrates First Year of Life-Changing In-Utero Surgery Program with 11 Cases

Orlando, FL (September 17, 2019) – Orlando Health is celebrating its first year of successful in-utero surgery to repair Spina bifida, a spinal defect developed by the fetus during the early stages of pregnancy. To date, the hospital system has performed 11 cases on mothers and their unborn babies.

Tonight more than 60 people joined together to celebrate the program’s inaugural year, including eight fetal surgery mothers and their babies. The fetal surgery program at Orlando Health began with the recruitment of Samer Elbabaa, MD, a pediatric neurosurgeon who has performed more than 75 of these procedures in his career. Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies is the first and only hospital in the state of Florida to offer this unique and life-changing procedure. While fetal surgery is not a cure for Spina bifida, studies show that it can significantly reduce the need for a spinal shunt at birth and can improve the child’s mobility and leg function.

“We’re excited to celebrate the first year of our fetal surgery program and reunite with many of the mothers and babies we’ve had the privilege to care for,” said Samer Elbabaa, MD, medical director of pediatric neurosurgery at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. “At Winnie Palmer Hospital, we see an average of 14,000 births a year and this program is truly meeting an important need here in Central Florida and across the state.”

Pregnant mothers must go through a robust screening process to determine if this surgery is the best option for them. Once the screening is completed, the surgery must be done within a tight window between 19 to 26 weeks of pregnancy to offer the best outcomes for both the mother and her baby.

“My son Parker is the baby I didn’t know I absolutely needed in my life,” said Jessica Trinkle, one of the hospital’s fetal surgery patients. “He is also behind introducing me to many other people who I didn’t know I needed in my life, including the staff of the Fetal Care Center. Their care, devotion and expertise is a large reason why Parker is so perfect today.”

Following their birth, children who had fetal surgery for Spina bifida can continue to receive multidisciplinary care through the Leon Pediatric Neuroscience Center of Excellence at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer. For more information about fetal surgery and the Fetal Care Center, click here.      


Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies is a 350-bed facility dedicated exclusively to the needs of women and babies. The hospital includes comprehensive fetal diagnostics and labor and delivery services, a regional center for neonatal intensive care, maternal intensive care and women’s services. Annually, more than 14,000 babies are expected to be born at Winnie Palmer Hospital, making it the busiest labor and delivery unit in the state of Florida. The hospital is also home to the state’s only in-utero surgery program to repair Spina bifida defects. To learn more, visit

Related Articles