Conditions

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida refers to a number of birth defects affecting the spine. This is caused during the first month of fertilisation, when the embryo is forming a neural tube, a primitive tissue structure; eventually this will form the spine and nervous system. In the case of spina bifida this does not develop properly, and the spinal column does not close to encase the nerves.

The severity of the condition often depends on how big the opening between the vertebrates is, how many are affected, where it occurs and if it then causes the baby to develop hydrocephalus (excess fluid on the brain). There are three main types of spina bifida which range in severity (least serious first); Spina bifida occulta, Spina bifida meningocele and Myelomeningocele.

Spina bifida occulta is the most common and least serious of the three, the opening in the spine is very small, with a tiny gap between one or more vertebrae. Often this causes no symptoms, and most people will remain unaware that they have the condition. In such cases, no treatment is required.

Spina bifida meningocele is the rarest, in this case the bones of the spine develop normally, but the protective membranes are pushed out between openings in the vertebrae. These membranes can usually be removed in surgery, and no further treatment is required.

Myelomeningocele is the most serious and occurs in approximately one in 1,000 births. In cases of myelomeningocele, the spinal column remains open along several vertebrae, causing the membranes and spinal cord to free themselves and form a sac in the baby’s back, leaving the nervous system vulnerable to infections that may be fatal. Sometimes the spinal column can be repaired in surgery, although the damage to the nervous system has often already taken place. This can result in: partial or total paralysis of the lower limbs; learning difficulties; bowel and bladder incontinence.

Around 70% of children with myelomeningocele will also develop hydrocephalus (excess fluid on the brain). Hydrocephalus needs to be treated with surgery because the extra pressure that is placed on the brain by the fluid can cause brain damage.

What causes spina bifida is mostly unknown, but experts agree that it is a combination of genetic and environmental issues. If you are diabetic, obese or have had a previous child with spina bifida you are more likely to have a child with the condition. The most effective way to prevent spina bifida is by eating foods rich in folic acid or by taking folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy.

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Comments and Questions

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hiya my name is cherylle i had a baby born with spina bifida and my sister had a a baby boy with hydrocepales no spina bifida presant.Ialso have 3 daughters who have 8 children between them and all born without any problems.





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My daughter may have spina bifida occulta, is this serious? She has just had an MRI scan but am waiting for her consultant to give us the full results. Everything I've looked at online says its not that serious and caurses no complications, but my little girl wakes screaming in agony saying her knees hurt and her right leg turns in abit, and she's forever falling over and complaining her back hurts, her knees give way alot and she also has the simple at the bottom of her spine. She urinates alot, more then her sisters ever did at her age (she'll b 2 in 9days) I'm getting really concerned. Any info would b amazing Thankyou x





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If you are worried, the best thing to do is ask your GP to refer you to a geneticist(an expert in hereditary diseases), who can assess your probability of having a child with SB, as contrary to previous answers, it CAN be passed on through family lines.





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I wonder if anyone can help, my son is nearly seven, he has a sacral dimple, and I have now discovered that he is turning his left foot in. Should I be concerned?





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Hi, my daughter has spina bifida it also causes right foot and leg problems, I would get your sons foot checked out, it may only take a splint (AFO) to correct it.

my baby has a small hole at the top of her bottom can this cause her any problems





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hi i have two exactly in the same place i was wondering what it was too x

My son has the same thing. I was told that it is related to Spina Bifida. We do have Spina Bifida in the family. My doctor said that the only problem he could have is infection, if hair grows out of it. Once I was told this, I just checked the area was kept clean when he was a baby and have not worried about it since this advice. It has never bothered my son and he is now 31 and has not had any problems whatsoever.

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My daughter was born with a Tethered Spine. Although she doesn't have spina bifida it was mentioned with some link to her condition. She is now 12 and still has little or no control of her bladder. She has to wear adult incontinance pads all the time, and it is getting to be very embarrasing for her now she is getting older. She has had her spine detethered and has had collogen injections, but nothing has changed. It seems the surgeons have given up on her, but i believe someone must be able to help her. I believe she may have structrual damage to the bladder, but i can't find anyone to help her. Please can you advise me on someone who i can contact to help





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My daughter was born wiv spina bifida its a disability not a embarasin condition





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Couldn't agree with you more on this. Nothing embarrassing about spina bifida

my daughter also has spina bifida myelomeningocele an hydrocephalus and its not an embaresing problem is disability, my daughter has been through a lot since the day she was born an i am so proud of her, an she's still smiling after wot she has been through





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we have just found out my 9 year old daughter has 2 curves to her spine missing discs floating rib and a missing rib some of her fertabes arent developed proply and some are infused together and she has problems with her kidneys her right 1 functions 23% and left 1 63% and she is really windy but no one has told us what the name of this is or what the out come for my daughter will be? can any1 help me please





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Hi try ringing Asbah if you don't all ready there brilliant and will offer advise and support

Our daughter was born with Spina Bifida Occulta, and as it says on here, and as it also says on other websites, and we were also told be hv's and doctors, that this type of sb, doesnt cause problems!! They can be soo wrong, out daughter had to have major spinal surgery, and now has significant damage to her right leg/foot, the extent of which we wont know until she thinks about walking. Up to now we know that she has no feeling or movement, this is very different to reading and being told that she will have no problems. This annoys us a lot!! Spina Bifida Occulta is so miss understood, and more information should be available about it!!





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I completely agree. My Son has spina bifida occulta (amongst other major spinal abnormalities) and it is far from a minor form of the condition. For my son, his spina bifida is the reason that he cannot walk properly. It is the reason that he will never be continent of urin or faeces. So please, don't ever think of it as not serious or having no side effects


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Spina bifida is a term that is used to refer to a series of birth defects that affect the development of the spine and nervous system. Read More »