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What is Spina Bifida?

Spina Bifida is a congenital disorder that can affect the brain of the baby and the spinal column.

After the 28th day of conception, a baby’s nervous system modifies into specialized cell plates that coil up and form neural tubes, this tube closes and forms human brain and spinal cord. In case, there are problems in this process that are known as Neural Tube defects which can include Spina Bifida. The baby that is affected with spina bifida lacks a developed neural tube or has one that does not close properly, causing defects in the spinal cord and the brain.

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Spina Bifida Types

Spina bifida occulta

“Occulta” implies hidden; and Spina bifida occulta is the mildest form of spina bifida. There are no painful symptoms or disability but it can cause one more vertebrae to be malformed; the split however is so small that it is not so apparent.


It is an uncommon type of spina bifida with the membrane surrounding the spinal cord distended creating a cyst or lump. This is usually not noticeable through the skin but the cyst may enlarge and get uncovered to the surface though not making the cord visible

Spina bifida cystica

Cystica is the most severe and complicated type of spina bifida. It can entail major and fatal neurological problems. A section of the nerves and the spinal cord are exposed outside the body.


This is the most severe type of spina bifida cystica. The uncovered portion of the spinal cord has no overlying membrane which can put the baby into dangerous life-threatening conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Spina Bifida

Symptoms can vary from person to person depending on the type of spina bifida. Apart from the noticeable deformity in the spine, the other symptoms can be as follows

  • Fluid-filled sac at the back
  • Unusual tuft of hair on the spinal area
  • Birthmark on the spinal area
  • Small dimple on the spinal part

Causes of Spina Bifida

The precise cause is difficult to say but all pregnant women are at risk to pass on the disorder to the child. Doctors believe that spina bifida in children is fundamentally caused due to genetic, nutritional and environmental factors. One of the major nutritional factors can be folic acid deficiency

Spina Bifida Complications

Though people with spina bifida can live normal lives with reasonable intelligence and normal mobility, there can be complications like paralysis, infection, learning disability, loss of sensation in the legs, depression, problems in the skin, and lack of cerebrospinal fluid causing brain damage and retardation

Spina Bifida treatment

Spina Bifida may not need treatment but in certain cases, surgery may be advisable to keep the spinal cord in place, closed and immune to the risk of any infection.

This may done days or even hours after the birth. There is also prenatal surgery available between the nineteenth and the twenty-fifth week.

Though the surgery may cause apprehension in mothers, studies have shown that they can treat the condition and reduce the risk of any complications in the child’s life in the future.

Spina Bifida life Expectancy

With better treatment methods for spina bifida, there has been a significant improvement in the life expectancy. More than 75 percent of children have been able to live past their early adulthood, according to information provided in the form of studies conducted in 2001. Supportive medical care and personal attention can help increase life expectancy of spina bifida.

Spina Bifida Pictures

Here are photos of Spina Bifida and images that show how the spine and backbone are affected

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