Spina Bifida

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Spina bifida is part of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects. The neural tube is the embryonic structure that eventually develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord and the tissues that enclose them. It usually forms early in the pregnancy, closing by the 28th day after conception. However, in babies with spina bifida, the neural tube does not close properly and the backbone that protects the spinal cord doesn’t form as it should. This results in damage to the spinal cord and nerves.
There are three different types of spina bifida, varying in severity and complications. The most serious type is called myelomeningocele, which, when translated, literally means “protrusion of the spinal cord meninges.” The translation is very accurate, because it is in this type that a sac of fluid comes through an opening on the baby’s back in which part of
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This type is less severe than the first type because the spinal cord is not in this sack. Due to this, there is usually little or no nerve damage and only minor disabilities result.
Spina bifida occulta is the third and most mild type of spina bifida. Usually the spinal cord and nerves are normal and there is only a small gap in the spine – no opening or sac on the back. Because it is so mild, spina bifida occulta often is not even discovered until late childhood or adulthood and it typically does not cause any disabilities.
The signs and symptoms of myelomeningocele and meningocele are quite obvious, consisting of a sac of nerves and/or spinal cord protruding from the lower back. Spina bifida occulta often has no signs or symptoms, since many people who have it are not even aware of it. However, sometimes visible indications can be seen on the baby’s skin above the spinal defect. These can include abnormal tufts of hair, a collection of fat, or a small dimple or

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