Spina Bifida

Definition

Spina bifida is a type of birth defect. It is a problem with how the spine and spinal cord develop. Spina bifida can begin to develop in a fetus before the mother even knows she is pregnant. In some cases, structures that should be inside the spinal canal can slip out. The structures affected may include:
  • Membranes that surround the spinal cord
  • Nerve roots that connect nerves to the spinal cord
  • The spinal cord
  • Back bones—may be deformed
Spina Bifida
Spinabifida
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There are 3 kinds of spina bifida:
  • Occulta—small defect in one or more backbones, least severe form, usually no complications
  • Meningocele—membranes poke through an open part of the spine and can form a cyst
  • Myelomeningocele—most severe form of spina bifida, membranes poke through and contain nerve roots or spinal cord and can lead to:
    • Paralysis and incontinence of bowel and bladder may occur—frequently not cured by surgery
    • Hydrocephalus—a build up of fluids in the brain that increases pressure on the brain

Causes

The cause of spina bifida is not known. There is a strong genetic factor for some with spina bifida.Many studies have also shown a link between a low folate diet in the mother and birth defects. In particular, low folate diets are associated with an increased risk of spina bifida.

Risk Factors

This condition is more likely in females. Other factors that increase the risk of spina bifida include:
  • Low maternal blood level of folic acid at the time of conception
  • Family history of spina bifida
  • A mother who had a previous pregnancy with a neural tube defect
  • Mother's race: Hispanic or Caucasian of European origin
  • Certain medications given during pregnancy

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