What is Spina Bifida?

Doctors aren't certain what causes spina bifida. As with many other problems, it appears to result from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors, such as a family history of neural tube defects and folic acid deficiency.

Read more on www.mayoclinic.com
Also known as myelomeningocele, open spine, Spinal Dysraphism, Rachischisis, Schistorrhachis, cleft spine, Spinal Dysraphisms
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Spina Bifida

Spina bifida (cleft spine) is a birth defect affecting the spinal column. Spina bifida progresses from a cleft, or splitlike opening, in the back part of the backbones (the spinal vertebrae). In more severe cases, it involves the spinal cord. Spina bifida is the most common of a group of birth defects known as neural tube defects, which affect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Spina bifida begins in the womb, when the tissues that fold to form the neural tube do not close or do not stay closed completely. This causes an opening in the vertebrae, which surround and protect the spinal cord. This occurs just a few weeks (21 to 28 days) after conceptionusually before the woman knows that she is pregnant. There are 3 types of spina bifida. Spina bifida occulta: Occulta means hidden, and the defect is not visible. Spina bifida occulta is rarely linked with complications or symptoms. Spina bifida occulta is usually discovered accidentally when the person has an x-ray or MRI for some other reason. The prevalence of occulta is not known, but it is probably the most common type of spina bifida. Estimates of prevalence from 5% to as high as 40% have been proposed. Meningocele: The membrane that surrounds the spinal cord may enlarge, creating a lump or cyst. This is often invisible through the skin and causes no problems. If the spinal canal is cleft, or bifid, the cyst may expand and come to the surface. In such cases, since the cyst does not enclose the spinal cord, the cord is not exposed. The cyst varies in size, but it can almost always be removed surgically if necessary, leaving no permanent disability. This is an uncommon type of spina bifida. Spina bifida cystica (myelomeningocele): This is the most complex and severe form of spina bifida. Spina bifida cystica usually involves neurological problems that can be very serious or even fatal. A section of the spinal cord and the nerves that stem from the cord are exposed and visible on the outside of the body. Or, if there is a cyst, it encloses part of the cord and the nerves. This condition, which was documented 4000 years ago, accounts for 94% of cases of true spina bifida. The term spina bifida often is used interchangeably with myelomeningocele, since this is the type of spina bifida that causes the vast majority of disability. Fortunately, surgery is an effective treatment in most people with spina bifida. Most infants with an open spine or myelomeningocele undergo surgery within the first 48 hours of life to close the defect. Antibiotics are given to prevent infection of the exposed spinal cord and nerves until these structures can be protected by surgery. Before antibiotics were available, most children born with myelomeningocele died soon after birth. Those who survived were severely disabled. With modern treatment, almost all children with myelomeningocele survive and most are able to live productive lives with some degree of independence. Even with these treatments, however, most have some degree of permanent leg paralysis and often difficulties with bowel and bladder function. The extent of paralysis depends on which part of the spinal cord is involved. The higher the defect on the body, the more severe the paralysis. About 80% of myelomeningoceles occur in the lumbar (lower back) and sacral (tailbone) regions of the spine.

Cleft spine

Spina bifida is the most common disabling birth defect in the United States. It is a type of neural tube defect, which is a problem with the spinal cord or its coverings. It happens if the fetal spinal column doesn't close completely during the first month of pregnancy. There is usually nerve damage that causes at least some paralysis of the legs. Many people with spina bifida will need assistive devices such as braces, crutches or wheelchairs. They may have learning difficulties, urinary and bowel problems or hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain. There is no cure. Treatments focus on the complications, and can include surgery, medicine and physiotherapy. Taking folic acid can reduce the risk of having a baby with spina bifida. It's in most multivitamins. Women who could become pregnant should take it daily.

Read more on www.nlm.nih.gov

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is part of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects. The neural tube is the embryonic structure that eventually develops into the baby's brain and spinal cord and the tissues that enclose them.

Read more on www.mayoclinic.com


Spina bifida may occasionally cause no symptoms or only minor physical disabilities. More frequently, it leads to severe physical and mental disabilities. Factors that affect the severity of complications include: The size and location of the neural tube defect; Whether skin covers the affected area; Which spinal nerves come out of the affected area of the spinal cord

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Coping and support
News that your newborn child has a devastating condition such as spina bifida can naturally cause you as a parent to feel grief, anger, frustration, fear and sadness. There's good reason to hope, however, because most people with spina bifida live active and productive lives.

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Most cases of spina bifida are detected during routine blood tests carried out during an antenatal screening appointment.

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Preparing for your appointment
Your health care provider will likely suspect or diagnose your baby's condition during your pregnancy. In addition to the health care provider you've selected to care for you during your pregnancy, you'll also likely consult with a multidisciplinary team of physicians, surgeons and physical therapists at a center that specializes in spina bifida treatment. Children with myelomeningocele require ongoing medical attention throughout their lives to monitor their condition and treat complications.

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Folic acid, taken in supplement form at least one month before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy, greatly reduces the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

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Risk factors
Although doctors and researchers don't know for sure why spina bifida occurs, they have identified a few risk factors: Race. Spina bifida is more common among whites and Hispanics.; Family history of neural tube defects. Couples who've had one child with a neural tube defect have a slightly higher chance of having another baby with the same defect. That risk increases if two previous children have been affected by the condition. In addition, a woman who was born with a neural tube defect, or who has a close relative with one, has a greater chance of giving birth to a child with spina bifida. However, most babies with spina bifida are born to parents with no known family history of the condition.;...

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Spina bifida occurs in three forms, each varying in severity: Spina bifida occulta. This mildest form results in a small separation or gap in one or more of the bones (vertebrae) of the spine. Because the spinal nerves usually aren't involved, most children with this form of spina bifida have no signs or symptoms and experience no neurological problems. An abnormal tuft of hair, a collection of fat, a small dimple or a birthmark on the newborn's skin above the spinal defect may be the only visible indication of the condition. Many people who have spina bifida occulta don't even know it, unless the condition is discovered during an X-ray or other imaging test done for unrelated reasons.;...

Read more on www.mayoclinic.com
If your child is diagnosed with spina bifida, both they and you will be introduced to a team of health professionals who will be involved with helping you to look after your child.

Read more on www.nhs.uk