Spina Bifida

What is Spina Bifida?
A child with spina bifida was born with a hole in the spine. It is a type of neural tube defect (NTD). A healthy spine is closed to protect the spinal cord, nerves that send messages to and from the brain and the rest of the child’s body.

When a baby is growing inside the mother, the spine and spinal cord are also developing. Sometimes part of the spinal cord and spine don’t grow the way they should, leaving an opening where the spinal cord may protrude outside the body.

Due to the opening of the spine, the nerves of the spinal cord may be damaged.

What does the term spina bifida mean?
It means “split or open spine.”

What are the challenges of spina bifida?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spina bifida might cause physical and mental disabilities that range from mild to severe.

The severity they say depends on:

  • The size and location of the opening in the spine
  • Whether part of the spinal cord and nerves are affected

What are the types of spina bifida?
The three most common types of spina bifida are:

  • Myelomeningocele—Most often this is what is referred to with spina befida. This is the most serious type. With this condition, a sack of fluid comes through an opening in the baby’s back. Part of the spinal cord and nerves are in the sac and are damaged. This condition causes mild to severe disabilities. Some symptoms include problems affecting how the person goes to the bathroom, loss of feeling in legs or feet and not being able to move the legs.
  • Meningocele—With this condition, a sack of fluid comes through an opening in the baby’s back, but the spinal cord is not in this sac. There is usually little or no nerve damage. This type of spina bifida can cause minor disabilities.
  • Spina bifida Occulta—is the mildest form of the condition. It is sometimes called the “hidden” spina bifida. There is a small gap in the spine, but no opening or sac on the back. The spinal cord and nerves are usually normal. This form usually does not cause any disabilities.

What are the treatments for a child with spina bifida?
Each child is different; therefore, the needs and treatment will vary for each person. Some people have problems that are more serious than others.

To learn more about treatments visit www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/spinabifida/treatment.html.

Spina Bifida Association of Connecticut at www.sbac.org or Spina Bifida Association at www.spinabifidaassociation.org or call 1-800-621-3141 (In NJ) call 1-908-782-7475.