May 11, 2019
About Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida occurs within the first month of pregnancy resulting in an incomplete closure of the spinal column. Spina Bifida is the most frequently occurring permanently disabling birth defect affecting approximately one out of every 1,000 newborns in the United States.

What Causes Spina Bifida?
The cause of Spina Bifida is not known with certainty, however, scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors may act together to cause Spina Bifida.

How is Spina Bifida Treated?
A child with the most severe form of Spina Bifida usually is operated on within 24 hours after birth. Surgery is generally performed to minimize the risk of infection and to preserve existing function in the spinal cord.

Can Anything Be Done to Prevent Spina Bifida?
Yes. Recent studies have shown that if all women of childbearing age were to consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day prior to becoming pregnant and throughout the first trimester of pregnancy, the incidence of Spina Bifida could be reduced by up to 75%. Folic acid, a common water-soluble B vitamin, is essential for the functioning of the human body. During periods of rapid growth, such as pregnancy and fetal development, the body's requirement for this vitamin increases.

What Conditions Are Associated With Spina Bifida?
Conditions associated with Spina Bifida include mobility impairments, bowel and bladder complications, latex allergy, tendonitis, obesity, skin breakdown, gastrointestinal disorders, learning disabilities, depression, and social and sexual issues.Due to the wide range of neurological damage and mobility impairments, it can be difficult to identify some secondary conditions. Attention should be focused on the psychological and social development of children and young adults with Spina Bifida.

What Physical Limitations Exist?
Persons with Spina Bifida need to learn mobility skills and often, with the use of crutches, braces, or wheelchairs can achieve more independence. Also, with new techniques, children can become independent in managing their bowel and bladder problems.

Can Spina Bifida Be Detected Before Birth?
Yes. There are three prenatal tests that can be done to detect Spina Bifida.

1. Blood tests during the 16-18th weeks of pregnancy to check for blood levels of a protein called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP screening test), which is elevated in about 75-80% of women having fetuses with Spina Bifida.
2. Ultrasound of the fetus can detect signs of Spina Bifida such as the open spine.
3. Maternal amniocentesis, in which a small sample of the amniotic fluid is withdrawn, can detect alpha-fetoprotein.

What is the Long-Term Outlook for Children with Spina Bifida?
Fortunately, with the proper medical care, children with Spina Bifida can lead active and productive lives. Most are successful in school and many are actively involved in modified sports activities despite their physical challenges. Due to medical and surgical interventions over the last 40 years, approximately 90% of babies born with Spina Bifida survive into adulthood, approximately 80% have normal IQ scores, and approximately 75% are in competitive sports and recreational activities.

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