Spina Bifida Disease Is Called Neural Tube Defects. Spina bifida is a birth defect where the bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not form correctly around the spinal cord. This defect can occur anywhere along the spine. Spina bifida is the most common of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects. Spina bifida […]
Spina Bifida Disease Is Called Neural Tube Defects. Spina bifida is a birth defect where the bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not form correctly around the spinal cord. This defect can occur anywhere along the spine. Spina bifida is the most common of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects. Spina bifida develops in a fetus early in pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. In the United States, approxiamtely 1 in every 2,000 children are born with spina bifida.
Spina bifida occulta is the most common form. The spinal defect is concealed under the skin and does not generally cause problems or require treatment. Doctors believe that an estimated 10% to 24% of the general population unknowingly has this spinal defect. In a number of cases, a dimple, depression, hairy patch, or a birthmark develops over the skin where more than one vertebrae is affected. This is known as occult spinal dysraphism.
Spina bifida manifesta is the more severe but less common form of spina bifida. Frequently Spina bifida manifesta is associated with nerve damage, causing problems with walking, bladder control, and coordination. It can be separated into two classes, meningocele and myelomeningocele. In meningocele, fluid leaks out of the spinal canal, resulting in a swollen area over the baby’s spine. In myelomeningocele, a section of the spinal nerves are pushed out of the spinal canal against the underside of the skin, often causing nerve damage. In more severe cases, the skin is open and the nerves are exposed to the outside of the body.
Symptoms of spina bifida vary based upon the severity of the birth defect. In spina bifida occulta, there may be no symptoms or only a dimple, depression, birthmark, or hairy patch over the affected vertebrae. With spina bifida manifesta, symptoms can include swelling over the affected spine. If the baby’s nerves are damaged, the child can have problems with walking, bladder control, and coordination. Additionally, a child may experience numbness and paralysis in the legs, and in the arms, which is less common.
A maternal serum triple test is carried out. The test uses a blood sample from the mother to screen for fetal abnormalities and neural tube defects. A test showing higher levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) increases the chances of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. A fetal ultrasound may then be done to try to determine whether the fetus has any visible abnormalities. For the most part, fetal ultrasounds can only detect signs of severe spina bifida (manifesta). Amniocentesis is also done when the maternal serum triple test indicates a high level of AFP. Spina bifida is typically diagnosed when amniocentesis results verify heightened levels of AFP and the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (ACH), and the ultrasound shows fetal abnormalities in the spine that are common to spina bifida. Spina bifida can also be diagnosed after birth based upon the appearance of the newborns back. X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans may be done to evaluate suspected spina bifida.
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