Spina bifida occurs during fetal development and is characterized by an inability of the neural tube (the part that makes up the brain and spinal cord) to fuse. This closing of the neural tube should take place within the first 28 days after conception. There are 3 different types of spina bifida: spina bifida occulta, meningocele, and myelomeningocele.
Spina bifida occulta does not involve the nerves or spinal cord but instead is a gapping between vertebrae (bone surrounding the spinal cord). This presents as a tuft of hair, birthmark, or other discoloration on the low back. Most persons with this condition do not know they have it until an x-ray or MRI is performed and does not have any associated symptoms.
A meningocele is the appearance of a large sac on the back. This sac is the outer covering of the spinal cord pushing between two vertebrae. Because it does not involve too much of the spinal cord it can usually be surgically removed.
Myelomeningocele is the most severe but also the most common type when people think of “spina bifida”. In this case, parts of the spinal cord protrude between vertebrae and may or may not be covered with skin which could increase the chance for infection. Signs and symptoms of myelomeningocele include:
- Bowel and bladder issues
- Muscle weakness
- Spinal curvatures
- Arm and leg deformities
Studies have linked folic acid deficiency and the occurrence spina bifida, but have not been fully proven. Babies born with this condition usually have surgery within 24-48 hours to try and correct the problem and may have other surgeries if needed.
Physical therapy is usually recommended for these children and adolescents so they can lead as functional a life as possible. Tasks performed in physical therapy for these children usually mirror the gross motor milestones depending on a child’s age such as rolling, crawling, and walking. Strengthening, stretching, and education are very important for these children and their caregivers to prevent further impairments. Children with spina bifida may eventually need orthoses to maintain range of motion or assistive devices for mobility as they age which can be assessed by your physical therapist.
We treat patients with spina bifida in the 34711 area!