Spina bifida is one of the several types of spinal dysraphism, which is a term used to explain malformations of the spinal cord. As one of the most common birth defects in the world, spina bifida occurs when the embryo’s developing neural tube fails to close correctly. The neural tube is the precursor to the spinal cord and brain.
Spina bifida may affect the spinal cord coverings, the spinal cord itself, and/or any of the bones of the spine. This condition can cause serious infections, problems with bowel and bladder function, paralysis, and hydrocephalus.
In the most severe form of spina bifida (open spina bifida), an open channel exists from the skin to the spinal cord. This defect is usually visible to the naked eye in a newborn or can be detected through fetal ultrasounds. As a result, this form of spina bifida is always diagnosed in newborn infants or in utero.