Spina Bifida (SB) is the result of a neural tube defect. It is a congenital disorder involving incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and/or their protective coverings caused by the failure of the fetus’s spine to close properly during the first month.
The cause of SB is unknown but research shows that a preventative measure is the mother taking folic acid.
Infants born with SB sometimes have an open lesion on their spine where significant damage to the nerves and spinal cord has occurred. Although the spinal opening can be surgically repaired shortly after birth, the nerve damage is permanent, resulting in varying degrees of paralysis of the lower limbs.
Surgery to close the newborn’s spinal opening is generally performed within 24 hours after birth to minimize the risk of infection and to preserve existing function in the spinal cord. In cases when there is no lesion present, vertebrae may be improperly formed or missing in addition to accompanying nerve damage.
Besides physical and mobility difficulties, most individuals with spina bifida have a form of a learning disability. Other complications accompanying spina bifida are bowel and bladder problems and hydrocephalus.
There is no cure for SB because the nerve tissue cannot be replaced or repaired. Treatments for the variety of side effects of SB include surgery, medication, and physiotherapy. Many individuals with SB also need assistive devices such as braces, crutches, or wheelchairs.