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Spina Bifida Definition & Overview


Spina bifida is a type of birth defect. This type is called a neural tube defect. In spina bifida, a baby's spine does not close completely during early pregnancy. It can begin to develop in a fetus before the mother even knows she is pregnant. In some cases, structures that should be in the spinal canal can slip out. The structures affected involved may include:

  • Membranes that surrounds the spinal cord
  • Nerve roots that connect nerves to the spinal cord
  • Spinal cord
  • Vertebra (back bones) may be deformed

Spina Bifida

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There are three kinds of spina bifida:


This is the least severe form and can have:

  • No symptoms
  • Small defect in one or more vertebrae
  • Spinal cord and nerves are normal
  • Usually no complications


In this case the membranes poke through an open part of the spine. This forms a cyst. Spinal fluid can leak out. This type can be treated.


This is the most severe form of spina bifida. In this case, the cyst contains membrane, nerve roots, and sometimes the spinal cord. This type can result in severe problems such as:

  • Paralysis and incontinence of bowel and bladder may occur—frequently not cured by surgery
  • Hydrocephalus. —a build up of fluids in the brain that increase pressure on the brain

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2024 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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