Spina Bifida: Causes & Treatment Options

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: August 6, 2014

spina bifidaSpina Bifida is a permanently disabling birth defect that affects an infant’s spinal column. It can cause paralysis, nerve damage, and other disabilities if not treated effectively. In this post, we will talk about Spina Bifida, its causes, as well as the options for treating the defect.

What is Spina Bifida?

Spina Bifida is a birth defect in which a baby’s spinal column fails to close properly while in the womb. There are several different sub-types of Spina Bifida (listed below):

  • Occult Spina Dysraphism. This type is marked by a dimple in the lower back. It can cause the spine to grow in odd ways, and result in mobility issues, nerve damage, and disability as the child grows.
  • Spina Bifida Occulta. This type is often known as hidden Spina Bifida as it is much harder to detect than other forms. Usually this type has no associated symptoms or signs, and generally does not require any treatment.
  • Myelomeningocele. The most severe type of Spina Bifida, this defect occurs when bits of the spine and nerves come through the open area of the spine – causing disability and associated nerve damage.

The exact cause of Spina Bifida is not fully known. Some research suggests that the defect is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for spina bifida depends on the specific type of the defect. Most types (with the exception of Spina Bifida Occulta) require surgery shortly after birth to prevent any permanent nerve damage, infection, or paralysis. The defect should be monitored closely by a spine surgeon as the child grows.

Spina Bifida can also be detected prior to birth via a blood test or ultrasound. It the defect is detected, appropriate treatment steps can be taken to quickly address the defect after birth.

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