Spina Bifida

To find patient care programs and faculty treating spina bifida at Kennedy Krieger Institute, as well as research investigating this disorder, please see the right-hand column below. Additional helpful information, including definitions, symptoms, Institute press releases, Potential magazine articles, and other resources outside the Institute, have also been provided for readers on this page.

Spina Bifida Overview:

At Kennedy Krieger, the Philip A. Keelty Center for Spina Bifida and Related Conditions serves children and adults with spina bifida, myelomeningocele (meningomyelocele), or myelodysplasia, as well as other related conditions of the brain and spine such as hydrocephalus, Arnold-Chiari malformation and tethered spinal cord syndrome.

Spina bifida results from the failure of the spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy. In severe cases, the spinal cord protrudes through the back and may be covered by skin or a thin membrane. Surgery to close a newborn's back is generally performed within 24 hours after birth to minimize the risk of infection and to preserve existing function in the spinal cord.

Because of the paralysis resulting from the damage to the spinal cord, people born with spina bifida may need surgeries and other extensive medical care. The condition can also cause bowel and bladder complications. A large percentage of children born with spina bifida have hydrocephalus, the accumulation of fluid in the brain. Hydrocephalus is controlled by a surgical procedure called "shunting" which relieves the fluid build up in the brain by redirecting it into the abdominal area. Most children born with spina bifida live well into adulthood as a result of today's sophisticated medical techniques.

Examples, Subsets and Synonyms for Spina Bifida:

  • Myelomeningocele
  • Meningocele
  • Myelodysplasia