Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that is caused by a failure of the infant’s spine to completely close during the first month of pregnancy. Spina bifida can range greatly in severity.
During early development, the spinal column begins as a flat plane. In the first month of pregnancy it begins to curl and eventually seals into a tube shape. When a child has spina bifida, this means the tube did not completely seal. There are three types of spina bifida:
The exact causes of spina bifida are unknown. However, genetics may play a role as well as high fevers and certain medications. A lack of folic acid during pregnancy may also lead to neural tube defects.
An exellent video explaining spina bifida is available to view here.
Children with myelomeningocele often have hydrocephalus and/or clubbed feet. Some children with spina bifida have problems such as curvatures in the back, hip dislocation, ankle and foot deformities and contracted muscles. Depending on the severity of the spina bifida, children are also at greater risk for paralysis and infection.
When treatment for spina bifida is necessary, it's done through surgery, although such treatment doesn't always completely resolve the problem. In its most mild form, Spina Bifida is a nearly invisible special need. In it's most severe form, a child may have paralysis in some degree and bowel/bladder problems.
Parents of children with spina bifida receive support from a medical team that may include several doctors (such as neurosurgeons, urologists, orthopedic surgeons, rehabilitation specialists, and general pediatricians), a nurse practitioner, physical and occupational therapists, and a social worker. The goal is to create a lifestyle for the child and family in which the disability interferes as little as possible with normal everyday activities.
The long-term prognosis for children with spina bifida depends on the severity and treatment. Surgery should be done as early as possible to have the best possible results. However, children in certain countries may not be able to have early intervention. The longer a child goes without surgery, the greater the risk for serious, long-term complications such as infection and paralysis.