Son family, in-utero surgery to repair spina bifida for the first time in Canada

Baby Eiko and her parents at a news conference in November 2017, celebrating the successful treatment of her spina bifida in-utero.
The surgery was a first in Canada.

Provincial budget funding will support Canada’s first dedicated centre to care for fetuses requiring high-risk intervention

Pregnant women will now have greater access to world-renowned specialists when their baby in-utero has been diagnosed with a condition that may need medical intervention.

Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance announced in today’s provincial budget that Ontario is investing $4 million in funding towards the creation of the Ontario Fetal Centre, a collaboration between Sinai Health System and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

Based at Mount Sinai Hospital, the Ontario Fetal Centre will be a specialized provincial centre of excellence for fetal care, research and education, and the first of its kind in Canada.

By employing the expertise of both hospitals, this effort will benefit patients by:

  • Addressing a growing and unmet need for high-risk maternal and fetal populations in Ontario
  • Providing specialized care closer to home
  • Creating a seamless central intake, timely assessment, care and follow-up process
  • Reducing a three to four week wait time, which is key for women who have a small window of time for treatment of fetal abnormalities
  • Designing and delivering new and innovative models of treatment
  • Defining best practices and supporting the training of the next generation of health care providers and researchers in these new standards

The Ontario Fetal Centre will enhance the established and successful partnership between Mount Sinai and SickKids hospitals in the area of fetal intervention. Together Mount Sinai and SickKids perform more than 100 in-utero fetal surgeries and procedures a year. In 2017, clinical teams at both hospitals performed the first Canadian in-utero repair of spina bifida in a fetus at 25 weeks gestation. That same year they collaborated by repairing a congenital heart defect in a fetus a few weeks before the birth.

A collaboration between Sinai Health System and SickKids, the centre will be one of only a few in the world that will offer a full range of highly specialized fetal surgeries and procedures, with the largest training program in Canada. Interventions include fetoscopic procedures, fetal bronchoscopy, in-utero cardiac interventions and in-utero spina bifida repair.



“On behalf of our patients, I would like to thank the Ontario government for their support of the creation of the Ontario Fetal Centre. Ontarians should be very proud of the highly specialized, talented clinicians who rank amongst the best in the world, and will be leading this centre in providing timely access to specialized care,” says Dr. Gary Newton, President and CEO, Sinai Health System.

“We are proud to be partners with Mount Sinai in the creation of the Ontario Fetal Centre and are grateful to the Ontario government for their investment in what will be the only centre of its kind in Canada,” says Dr. Michael Apkon, President and CEO of SickKids. “This collaboration is a testament of our commitment to improve the health outcomes of children by providing groundbreaking scientific and clinical advancements.”

“Every day, I care for pregnant women who are distressed to learn that there may be something seriously wrong with their fetus. I am immensely grateful for our government’s investment which recognizes the need for more comprehensive, end to end care and support through every step of their pregnancies and after birth,” says Dr. Greg Ryan, Head of the Fetal Medicine Program, Mount Sinai Hospital.

“This investment will help us give our most vulnerable patients the best possible start in life,” says Dr. Christopher Caldarone, Surgeon-in-Chief at SickKids. “By focusing on fetal research, clinical practice and education, we strive to optimize clinical outcomes and ultimately improve the quality of life for these children.”


About Mount Sinai Hospital
With more than 7,000 births a year, Mount Sinai Hospital, part of Sinai Health System, is one of the largest perinatal centres in North America caring for pregnant women and newborn babies. Approximately two-thirds of the pregnancies at Mount Sinai Hospital are high-risk. The fetal medicine program, established in 1993 receives referrals from across Canada and is nationally and internationally recognized as a leader in the field of fetal medicine and surgery. In-utero procedures are frequently performed for fetal heart or lung abnormalities, twin complications, Rhesus disease and a wide range of other fetal conditions. Mount Sinai Hospital is an internationally recognized 442-bed acute care academic health sciences centre affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About The Hospital for Sick Children
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally. Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized child and family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is proud of its vision for Healthier Children. A Better World. For more information, please visit Follow on Twitter (@SickKidsNews) and Instagram (@SickKidsToronto).


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Barbara McCully
Sinai Health System
416 586-4800 ext. 8587


Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children



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