Spina Bifida (Neural Tube Defect)
Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the spinal column and sometimes the spinal cord do not complete their development. Spina bifida is among a group of birth defects called neural tube defects.
When the fetus is developing, its central nervous system begins as a tube early in its life that eventually forms the brain, spinal cord, and the surrounding tissues. By the fetus' 28th day of life, this tube should be closed. But in children born with spina bifida, something, whether in the environment, the baby's genes, or both prevents this closure.
Children with spina bifida have one of three forms of the defect, each varying in severity from mild to severe. These forms include spina bifida occulta, meningocele and myelomeningocele.
Spina Bifida Occulta
This is the mildest form of the defect. A small gap exists between the bones (one or more) of the spine. Most of the time, the spinal nerves are not involved, so children with this form of the defect have no symptoms, signs, or neurological (having to do with the nerves) problems.
Sometimes visible hints of spina bifida are present on the baby's skin. These may be:
- A tuft of hair
- A collection of fat
- A little dimple or a birthmark
- Skin discoloration
In babies with this unusual form of spina bifida, the membranes surrounding and protecting the spinal cord (meninges), protrude through a gap in the vertebrae. These can usually be surgically removed and cause little or no damage to the nerves.
This is the most severe form of spina bifida. Sometimes it is called open spina bifida. This is the most commonly referred to form of the defect. When a child has this form of spina bifida, there is a gap between several vertebrae in the lower or middle back. Both the protective membranes around the spinal cord as well as the cord itself protrude through the gap. This forms a sac on the baby's back. Sometimes skin covers the sac, but in most cases, the tissue and nerves are both exposed.
This exposure makes the cord vulnerable to potentially fatal infections. Problems with the nervous system are common. These problems may include:
- Muscle weakness, which may be as serious as paralysis
- Problems with the bowel and bladder
- Problems with the bones such as deformed feet, hips that are not at the same level, or scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
Causes of Spina Bifida
Doctors don't know for certain what causes the defect, but they believe the factors may be both genetic and environmental. Some of these factors may be:
- Genetic — spina bifida occurs more often in families
- Folic acid (vitamin B) deficiency in the mother
- Obesity, diabetes, or increased body temperature in the pregnant mother (the mother's use of hot tubs or saunas in the early weeks of pregnancy has been linked to spina bifida)
- Some medications: Valproic acid (Depakene® or Stavzor®) seem to be linked to neural tube defects when taken early on in the mother's pregnancy.
Can Spina Bifida Have Long-Term Complications?
Yes. Many people with spina bifida will need to use braces, crutches or wheelchairs; have learning difficulties, urinary and bowel problems; or have hydrocephalus, which is buildup of fluid in the brain.
Spina bifida is a serious condition. Finding out that your baby has any type of condition is scary, especially when the complications can be lifelong. If your baby was born with spina bifida or another type of birth defect, you can find out if you qualify to seek compensation for your suffering. To learn more, please contact the birth defect lawyers at Flood Law Group today.
Get a Free Consultation
For more information about how we can help you, or to learn about a specific campaign opportunity, please contact our offices today.