Thursday, November 15, 2012

Spina Bifida In Depth

Spina bifida also known as cleft spine's technical name is Myelomeningecele.  It is a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth.  Normally, during the first month of pregnancy, the two sides of the spine join together to cover the spinal cord, spinal nerves, and meninges (the tissues covering the spinal cord).  Spina bifida refers to any birth defect involving incomplete closure of the spine. It normally affects 1 out of every 800 infants.  It can result in it sticking out of the child's back.  If a child is born with this condition, children born into the family have a higher risk of having this disorder.  There doesn't seem to be a full-proof family connection though.  Research also indicates that possible environmental risk factors such as radiation, play a part.  Symptoms include:

  • Lack of bladder control.
  • Partial or complete lack of sensation.
  • Partial or complete paralysis of the legs. 
  • Weakness in the hips, legs, and feet of a newborn.
  • Abnormal feet or legs, such as clubfoot.
  • Build up of fluid inside the skull (hydrocephalus).
  • Hair on the back part of the pelvis called the sacral area.
  • Dimpling of the sacral area.
Signs and tests include:

  • Prenatal screening to help diagnose the condition.
  • A quadruple screening blood test, done in the second trimester of pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy ultrasound.
  • Amniocentesis.
Tests done after the child is born include:

  • X-rays.
  • Ultrasound.
  • CT scan.
  • MRI of the spinal area.
In some cases where it is caught early in the pregnancy a therapeutic abortion maybe called for.  They can do surgery to repair after the child is born, but it has to be handled carefully before surgery as not to injure the child.  It can be surgically corrected, and a long life can be lived with this treatment, but the nerve damage that has happened before the surgery is irreversible as of now.  There are trials for stem cells going on for nerve damage.  There is hope.  Stay Informed!

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