Spinal Dysraphism and Spina Bifida

What Is Spinal Dysraphism and Spina Bifida?

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 the utero.

Treatment for Spinal Dysraphism and Spina Bifida

Spina bifida has no cure, and any damaged or lost nerve tissue cannot be replaced or repaired. However, certain treatments have proven to be effective. The goal of spina bifida treatments is to empower the child to achieve the highest degree of independence and functioning. The actual type of treatment will depend on the type and severity of the disorder.

Typically, children born with spina bifida occulta or mild spina bifida do not require immediate treatment. However, these infants may need regular monitoring for early detection of dysfunction within the spinal cord. Infants born with more severe forms of spina bifida will almost always need a surgical procedure.

The surgery is designed to correct the physical malformation. Since some children with spina bifida are born with their spinal cord exposed to the skin, it requires early treatment to prevent neurological defects and infection. If the condition is severe enough, surgical procedures may be performed before the baby is born.