Spina bifida is known as a congenital birth defect, meaning that it presents at birth. Spina bifida is a defect in the bones that normally provide cover and protection for the spinal cord. In most cases, spina bifida occurs in the lumber spline or the lower back, and affects roughly one out of every 1,000 newborns.
Pregnant women should know that adequate amounts of folic acid (approximately 400 mcg or 0.4 mg) daily during pregnancy can reduce the risk of spina bifida. In addition, spina bifida can be diagnosed during fetal development through a test called amniocentesis. Treatment typically depends on the severity of the defect.
Types of Spina Bifida
Spina bifida occulta - this type is the mildest, defining a defect that is already covered by skin, and is not open to the environment. In most cases, children with this type of spina bifida don't experience health problems although symptoms may occur if the defect is serious.
The other type of Spina Bifida, known as Spina Bifida Manifesta includes two subtypes:
Meningocele - which means the membranes that cover the spinal cord and the brain. In this case of Spina Bifida, a portion of these membranes may protrude outside the body through a hole in the vertebrae.
Myelomeningocele - this type is the most severe form of the spinal condition, and occurs when the membranes or the meninges protrude through a hole in the spinal column, and also involve a portion of the spinal cord pushing through as well. Most infants born with myelomeningocele are also diagnosed with hydrocephalus, or accumulation of cerebral spinal fluid in as well as around the brain.
Spina Bifida Treatment Options
In most cases, surgery for spina bifida is typically performed within several days of the birth in order to remove the pouch or sac (depending on the type of spina bifida diagnosed) that typically pushes out from the spine, and contains cerebral spinal fluid and nerves that typically lead and support lower body function and movement. After
the pouch is removed, the spinal opening is closed. Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for defective or damaged nerves.
Treatment options also focus on preventing and reducing infection and a condition known as hydrocephalus. Infants born with spina bifida may also experience varying degrees of paralysis as well as difficulty controlling bladder and bowel function. Children with spina bifida may also experience learning disabilities, again depending on the severity and the location of the defect.
Spina bifida treatments depend on the type of spina bifida. For example, meningocele is treated by doctors by pushing the meninges back into the spinal cavity and closing the hole found in the vertebrae. With myelomeningocele, in which a portion of the spine protrudes through the vertebral opening, surgery must be performed within one or two days following birth, not only to protect the spinal column, but in order to prevent
A baby born with hydrocephalus often requires a shunt inserted into the brain to help relieve pressure on the brain caused by excess fluid. As children age, surgery and treatments generally focus on managing physical difficulties, such as problems with the spine, hips, or feet.
Cost of Spina Bifida Treatment?
The cost of spina bifida treatment depend on the type and severity of spina bifida diagnosed. Costs can range from thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on treatment options, surgical procedures, and procedures required by the child as he or she grows and develops.
Who Treats Spina Bifida?
Treatment for spina bifida in children is treated by a multidisciplinary team that includes physical therapists, pediatricians, specialists, and psychologists. In most cases, there is no specific treatment for spina bifida itself, other than closing the whole in the spinal column or vertebrae. Treatments may require the use and training of wheelchairs, leg braces, walkers, or crutches, again depending on the severity.
Pediatrics is a field of medicine that specifically focuses on children. This age group ranges from infants to 18 years old and involves the study, treatment and surgical procedures performed on children. A physician who treats children is called a pediatrician while a specialist performing surgery on children in any field may be called a pediatric surgeon.