Spina bifida

What is Spina Bifida?

The neural tube is embryonic tissue from which the brain and spinal cord develop. Failure to close can result in serious birth defects such as Spina bifida. There are three main types of Spina bifida: spina bifida occulta, meningocele and myelomeningocele.

Spina bifida occulta is the most common form and the mildest in which one or more vertebrae are malformed and are usually covered by a layer of skin. This type of This form of spina bifida rarely causes disability.

Meningocele is where the spinal cord develops normally but the meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord) protrude from a spinal opening. The protuberances may or may not have a layer of skin covering them. In some cases there may be few or no symptoms with this type of spina bifida, while in others it causes various degrees of paralysis; sometimes with bowel and urinary dysfunction.

Myelomeningocele is the most severe form and can be very serious or even fatal. It occurs when a section of the spinal cord and nerves are exposed through an opening in the spine or there is a cyst that holds the nerves and often the spinal cord. This normally results in some form of paralysis and runs a high risk of infection if not closed surgically at birth. There are varying degrees of paralysis, some so severe that individuals with this type of spina bifida are unable to walk and are often have accompanying bowel and urinary dysfunctions. Generally, the higher on the back the cyst is, the more severe the paralysis.

For more information on this disorder please visit:

NINDS - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

MOD - March of Dimes Foundation

eMedicine Health - WebMD, Inc

BBC - BBC Health


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