Spina Bifida is a rare birth disorder, affecting approximately 1 in 12-1400 live births, although fortunately its incidence appears to be declining with each decade. It is the most serious birth disorder affecting the nervous system compatible with life. Spina bifida occurs when a portion of the fetal spinal cord, during the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy, fails to properly close. As a result, the child is born with a part of the spinal cord exposed on the back. There appear to be both genetic and environmental influences that contribute to spina bifida.
The child born with spina bifida needs to have the exposed part of the spinal cord repaired, to prevent further injury to the spinal cord and to prevent infection. The malformation is usually closed during the first 24-48 hours after birth. The 80-85% of children with spina bifida who develop hydrocephalus will require a ventricular shunt to control the build-up of spinal fluid.
Fortunately, with the proper medical care, children with spina bifida can lead active and productive lives. These children are a testament to the human spirit; most are successful in school and many are actively involved in modified sports activities despite their physical challenges. Twenty year follow-up studies of children with spina bifida show that they enter college in the same proportion as the general population, and many are actively employed. With recent improvements in care for these children, their outlook continues to improve.
Copyright© 1998-2003; American Association of Neurological Surgeons / Congress of Neurological Surgeons
Spina Bifida Association of America
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