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Spina bifida
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Spina bifida

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WOMEN'S HEALTH

Pregnancy

Spina bifida is one of a class of birth defects, called neural tube defects. These defects involve damage to the spine and spinal cord.

 

Complications

Spina bifida may occasionally cause 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

  • Whether spinal nerves come out of the affected area of the spinal cord

Children with myelomeningocele may experience physical and neurologic problems, including lack of normal bowel and bladder control, and partial or complete paralysis of their legs. Children and adults with this form of spina bifida might need crutches, braces or wheelchairs to help them get around, depending on the size of the opening and the care received after birth.

Between 70 percent and 90 percent of babies born with myelomeningocele also experience accumulation of fluid in the brain, a condition known as hydrocephalus. Most babies with myelomeningocele will need a shunt — a surgically placed tube that allows fluid in the brain to drain as needed into the abdomen. This tube might be placed just after birth, during the surgery to close the sac on the lower back, or later as fluid accumulates.

The majority of newborns with myelomeningocele survive. However, some may develop meningitis, an infection in the tissues surrounding the brain. Meningitis may cause brain injury and can be life-threatening.

Additional problems may arise as children with spina bifida get older. Children with myelomeningocele may develop learning disabilities, including difficulty paying attention, problems with language and reading comprehension, and trouble learning math. Children with spina bifida may also suffer from latex allergies, skin problems, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal disorders, seizure disorders, depression, and social and emotional problems.

Spina bifida > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:18 AM