Someone born with spina bifida has an opening in the spine where the spinal cord may protrude outside the body and become damaged.
There are different forms of spina bifida, but the most common is Myelomeningocele. It occurs when a baby is born with a sack, containing nerves and part of the spinal cord, which is protruding from the opening of the spine.
Because the spinal cord hasn't developed normally and some nerves may have been damaged, a person with myelomeningocele will have some paralysis, as well as a loss of feeling in their legs.
The amount of paralysis will vary, depending on where the opening is on the back.
Marshfield Clinic manages Spina Bifida through our Special Needs Clinic, to ensure that a child with Spina Bifida receives the most appropriate treatment to manage their disorder.
The treatment for Spina Bifida depends on the severity. Some children may need no treatment at all, where as babies born with Myelomeningocele will need surgery during their infancy.
Doctors gently push the spinal cord back inside the body through the opening on the spine and then close the opening.
Many children born with Spina Bifida also suffer from Hydrocephalus (extra fluid in the brain). To relieve pressure on the brain caused by the extra fluid, a ventricular peritoneal (VP) shunt is placed inside the brain.
The shunt is connected to a catheter (thin, flexible tube) that is tunneled through the body to the abdomen. The shunt draws fluid off the brain and the fluid travels through the catheter and drains into the abdomen, where it is absorbed by the body.
Aids, such as a walker or leg braces, may be needed to help a child with Spina Bifida maintain balance and help with walking. Some children may not walk at all and need a wheelchair.