Spina bifida is a spinal abnormality that develops in utero when the fetus’ spinal canal and back bone do not fully develop or close during development. In its most serious form, the infant is born with the spinal cord exposed through a sac on the back in the lumbar area. This is a serious condition that develops early in the pregnancy and will require immediate medical attention once the child is born. The prognosis for babies with spina bifida is usually relatively good after spine surgery. Some neurological damage is likely and may develop into other spine deformities as the child grows older. Spina bifida does not typically affect length of life.
Progression of the condition
Each vertebra develops from several independent parts. In normal development, these parts fuse to form single vertebra. Together the vertebrae protect the spinal cord and nerve roots. When fusion of each vertebra does not properly occur, the spinal cord can be left uncovered in the area of non-fusion, leading to spina bifida. This condition can be detected during prenatal screenings by ultrasound. Soon after birth, surgery is typically recommended to avoid damage to the unprotected spinal cord. A pediatric neurosurgeon’s main goal is typically to place the spinal cord and spinal nerves back inside the spinal canal and fuse the malformed vertebrae. As the child ages, he or she may require crutches or braces for maximum mobility. Neural damage from spina bifida varies widely in severity. Some children require a wheelchair, while others can walk unaided.
Other common spinal deformities include:
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
- Scheuermann’s kyphosis
Spina Bifida prognosis
There is no known cause of spina bifida, but with proper medical attention children can live a full and healthy life. If you are pregnant it is extremely important to visit your physician regularly to monitor the growth and development of your child. Ensure you do everything possible to foster a healthy environment for your baby. Speak with your physician for more information about spina bifida and other spinal conditions.