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Secondary Medical Conditions Associated with Spina Bifida: Effects on Nerves and Function, Bowel and Bladder -- SHNIC Educators Information

The nerves which control the bladder are the ones most often damaged. Students with spina bifida cannot feel when their bladders are full and cannot empty their bladders or urine. These students can learn to empty their bladders with a procedure called clean intermittent catheterization or CIC. The students use a catheter, a small straw-like device, to empty their bladders. The catheter is inserted into the bladder to drain it of urine and then it is removed. This is usually done every two to six hours throughout the day.

If your student requires CIC, she may need to miss a portion of your class in order to perform CIC in a private setting (i.e., nurse's office, restroom). Younger children may require some adult assistance or supervision until they are independent with the steps involved in CIC. Many students with spina bifida also cannot feel the need to move their bowels nor control when they have a bowel movement because the nerves controlling these are usually affected. Although they cannot achieve bowel control, they can achieve bowel regulation. There are programs that can help a student achieve bowel continence. These may involve eating a lot of fiber, laxatives and a regular toileting time for bowel movements, usually during non-school hours. However, it is possible that a student might have an accident at school, which needs to be handled sensitively by school personnel.

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Bradley L. Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D., Named President and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute

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