About the Pediatric Neurosurgery Fund
Conditions & Diagnoses
> About The Brain
> Achondroplasia
> Aneurysm
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> Chiari Malformation
> Cortical Vision Impairment
> Craniofacial Anomolies
> Epilepsy
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> Hydrocephalus
> Medulloblastomas
> Moyamoya Disease
> Spasticity
> Spina Bifida
> Syringomyelia (Syrinx)
> Tethered Spinal Cord
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Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is one of the most common birth defects and occurs when there is failure of the spinal cord to form and close properly. There are three types of spina bifida: spina bifida occulta (closed and most mild type) spina bifida with meningocele, and spina bifida with myelomeningocele (the most common and severe form). The area of the spine most commonly affected is the lumbar or sacral region (lower back).

What causes
Spina Bifida?

The exact cause of spina bifida is unknown but environmental and genetic factors are thought to play a role. In recent years, studies show that low levels of folate may be a contributory cause as well. Complications related to spina bifida may include other neurological  conditions such as hydrocephalus (due to the impaired CSF flow), syringomyelia, and often Chiari Type II malformations. In addition, there are potential disturbances with the bowel and bladder function, limb and spinal poblems, and breathing or swallowing difficulties. These problems occur because of the disturbance in the nervous system.

How is Spina Bifida diagnosed?

The diagnosis can be made on the basis of a ultrasound or elevation of maternal alpha fetal protein levels. Other times it is not recognized until birth. It is widely accepted that most children born with Spina Bifida should be aggressively treated both medically and surgically as early as possible to preserve existing function of the areas affected and to minimize further deficits or disabilities.

Treatment of Spina Bifida:

Typically, the neurosurgeon will close the area involved on the back and spinal cord as well as treat hydrocephalus within days following birth. Following the surgery, a multidisciplinary team including urologists, orthopedic surgeons, physical and occupational therapists to name a few will be involved in the child’s overall care. In more recent years, in-utero surgical correction for myelomeningoceles have been performed with favorable outcomes however, this procedure is not performed in many centers.