What is spina bifida?

As any Neuro Surgeon in Lahore would tell you, spina bifida is a congenital disorder, leading to intellectual or physical disability in the patient. There are different types of spina bifida and the management therapy depends on these types. Spina bifida needs specialized care throughout the life of the patient and with the right care, they may have no complications. Read on to know more about spina bifida:

What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida, is a condition of the spine, caused by neural tube defect. The neural tube is a canal like structure, which develops before birth, eventually forming the spinal cord. When there is any defect causing poor development of the neural tube, or improper closing, spina bifida develops.

Spina bifida can develop anywhere along the neural tube. Because the spinal cord is exposed due to improper closing of neural tube, nerves may be damaged, with physical and intellectual disability of the patient.

What are the types of spina bifida?

There are three types of spina bifida.

  • In myelomeningocele, the neural tube defect is most serious. There is exposure of spinal cord, nerves and meninges in this type of spina bifida. There is moderate to severe disability in the patient, such as loss of feeling in the person’s legs, incontinence, and even immobility. There is also risk of contracting severe infections and bowel dysfunction.
  • Meningocele involves the presence of sack of fluid on the back, but no spine or nervous tissue. It is therefore, less severe than myelomeningocele. Since there is no nerve damage involved, many people present with no symptoms, while few have incontinence issues.
  • Spina bifida occulta, is the mildest form of spina bifida. The nerves and spinal cord are fine in this type, but a small gap is present in the spine. Typically, no disability is seen in spina bifida occulta, which is why it goes unnoticed till late childhood or early adulthood.

How to diagnose spina bifida?

The diagnosis of spina bifida is made during pregnancy or soon after birth. Screening tests help to check for the presence of spina bifida during pregnancy. These include: serum alpha fetoprotein, ultrasound and amniocentesis.

Serum alpha fetoprotein (AFP) helps to measure the leaked amount of AFP from the fetus into the blood of the mother. A high level of AFP indicates spina bifida. This test is routinely performed as part of the triple screen, to check for neural tube and other birth defects.

Ultrasound can check for the presence of fetal spina bifida, particularly if the levels of AFP are found high in the mother. Ultrasound detects the protruded sac of spina bifida in the baby.

Amniocentesis is done when the serum AFP is high, but the ultrasound reveals nothing. Amniocentesis removes fluid from around the amniotic sac around the baby, to check for the presence of leaked AFP. If the AFP is high in amniocentesis, it indicates spina bifida.

When prenatal examination is lacking, spina bifida is diagnosed after birth. in this case, the healthcare provider performs MRI and X-rays to get more detailed images of the defect involved.

What the treatment options?

Treatment of spina bifida depends on the extent of neural tube defect. For meningocele and myelomeningocele, patients need specialized team of doctors, while for spina bifida occulta only routine pediatric care is mandated.

How to live with spina bifida?

Under the care of the right healthcare professional such as Neuro Surgeon in Karachi, patients of spina bifida can lead full and healthy lives. The incidence of complications can be minimized with the right care. As mentioned before, the type of spina bifida determines its severity. In mild cases, the patient has little to no symptoms, while severe illness presents with paralysis and inability to walk.