About 1,400 babies born yearly in the United States have spina bifida, a congenital condition that affects the spine. The board-certified neurosurgeons at Coast Neurosurgical Associates in Long Beach, California, provide early care and ongoing management of complications associated with spina bifida. Schedule a visit today for outstanding pediatric neurosurgical care delivered in a family-friendly environment. Call the office or request an appointment online.
Ordinarily, the neural tube that becomes a baby’s brain, spinal cord, and spine forms in early pregnancy and closes about 28 days after conception. Spina bifida is a congenital condition that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form and close properly before birth.
Depending on the type of spina bifida, ranging from mild to severe, the spine may gape open in the mid or low back. Several vertebrae may be missing along the opening, which allows the spinal cord membranes and spinal nerves to push through to the exterior back.
Milder forms of spina bifida (occult spina bifida) cause a small gap between spinal bones that may not be visible. However, a small tuft of hair or dimple above the affected area may indicate a potential problem. Babies born with occult spina bifida generally don’t have any symptoms or health complications.
Many children with spina bifida have minor or mild symptoms. However, severe spina bifida may cause lifelong complications, including:
Notably, the severity of spina bifida health complications often depends on the location of the defect, which spinal nerves are affected, and whether skin covers the opening.
Prenatal surgery may be considered for severe spina bifida to help preserve nerve function. It’s not appropriate in all cases but may reduce disability as the child grows. The surgery requires a team that usually includes a fetal surgeon, pediatric neurosurgeon, maternal-fetal specialist, fetal cardiologist, and neonatologist.
Otherwise, severe spina bifida requires surgery to close the opening in a baby's back within 72 hours of birth to minimize the risk of infection and prevent further spinal cord trauma. During this procedure, your neurosurgeon positions the spinal cord inside the body, covering it with muscle and skin.
Your Coast Neurosurgical Associates surgeon may place a shunt during the procedure to control hydrocephalus, common at birth in babies with spina bifida. Your neurosurgeon continues to provide other surgical care and follow-up as necessary during the child’s lifetime.
For more information about spina bifida care, schedule an evaluation today at Coast Neurosurgical Associates by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.