The Management of Myelomeningocele Study demonstrated that fetal surgery, as compared to postnatal repair, decreases the rate of hydrocephalus and improves expected motor function. However, fetal surgery is associated with significant maternal and neonatal risks including uterine wall dehiscence, prematurity, and fetal or neonatal death. The goal of this study was to provide information about counseling expectant mothers regarding myelomeningocele in the era of fetal surgery.
The authors conducted an extensive review of topics pertinent to counseling in the setting of myelomeningocele and introduce a new model for shared decision-making to aid practitioners during counseling.
Expectant mothers must decide in a timely manner among several potential options, namely termination of pregnancy, postnatal surgery, or fetal surgery. Multiple factors influence the decision, including maternal health, fetal heath, financial resources, social support, risk aversion, access to care, family planning, and values. In many cases, it is a difficult decision that benefits from the guidance of a pediatric neurosurgeon.
The authors review critical issues of prenatal counseling for myelomeningocele and discuss the process of shared decision-making as a framework to aid expectant mothers in choosing the treatment option best for them.