Pediatric Orthopaedics: Spina Bifida

January 16, 2019

When the spine and spinal cord do not form together properly, spinal abnormalities can occur. Spina bifida is a birth defect that can be classified under the category of neural tube defects. The neural tube, which forms in early pregnancy, is an embryonic structure that develops into a baby’s brain, enclosed by the spinal cord and tissues enclose. When babies have this condition, a portion of the neural tube has failed to close properly or develop, in turn causing defects to occur in the bones of the spine and the spinal cord. This condition varies based on the type of defect, complications, size and location.

There are three different types of spina bifida – occulta, meningocele and myelomeningocele. When spina bifida occulta occurs, there is a small separation or gap in one or more bones in the spine. There isn’t usually a symptom with occulta, and many people will not know they have it.

Another form of spina bifida, meningocele, happens when the protective membranes around the spinal cord are pushed out through the opening of the vertebrae, forming a sac filled with fluid. Nerve damage is less likely to occur with this type of spina bifida, as this sac doesn’t include the spinal cord.

The most severe form of spina bifida is myelomeningocele, which occurs when the canal is open along several vertebrae in the lower or middle back. At birth, the membranes and spinal nerves will push through this opening, resulting in a sac on the baby’s back that will expose tissues and nerves. Because of this, the baby is more likely to contract a life-threatening infection.

Meningocele and myelomeningocele are typically diagnosed before or immediately after birth. Females are found to be more affected by spina bifida than males. Those with a family history of neural tube defects, diabetes or obesity have an increased risk of birthing a child with this condition as well.

If you have any questions about spina bifida, please contact Campbell Clinic to meet with a physician.

This article was adapted from Mayo Clinic. Read the full article here.


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