Spina bifida care at Norton Children’s Hospital

What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida happens when the brain, spinal cord or the membranes that cover them (meninges) don’t fully develop the way they should. Nearly 1,500 babies are born with spina bifida each year.

Types of spina bifida

  • Spina bifida occulta (hidden). This type of spina bifida happens when one or more of the bones in the spine (vertebrae) don’t grow the way they should. This is the most common type and causes the fewest problems. As many as 10 percent to 20 percent of all people have this type of spina bifida. Although it rarely causes symptoms or issues, a small percentage of people get symptoms.
  • Closed neural tube defect: This type happens when there are growths of fat, bone or membranes on the spinal cord. Most children with this type have few or no symptoms. In some cases, it may cause issues with walking or going to the bathroom.
  • Meningocele: This is the least common type of spina bifida. It happens when the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord stick out through an opening in the spinal column. Some children with this type may have minor symptoms, while others may have more serious problems with walking and going to the bathroom.
  • Myelomeningocele: This is the most serious type of spina bifida. This happens when the vertebrae do not close and the spinal cord doesn’t develop the way that it should. The result is full or partial paralysis. Children may have issues with controlling their bladder or bowels, mobility, growing and buildup of fluid in the cavities in the brain (hydrocephalus). Learning challenges also may be common.

Spina bifida diagnosis

Spina bifida can be found before birth with a blood test and through imaging tests such as ultrasounds or an MRI. For babies and children, it can be found through an MRI or a spinal ultrasound.

Spina bifida treatment options

Treatment depends on the type of spina bifida and the symptoms. Children with more symptoms and a more serious type of spina bifida will need more care than children with milder forms of the condition.
Treatments may include:

  • Bracing or orthopedic surgery
  • Spine surgery for scoliosis
  • Bladder surgery
  • Bowel surgery
  • Education plans for learning issues
  • Physical therapy or occupational therapy
  • Surgery for a tethered spinal cord
  • An ETV/CPC procedure that helps with hydrocephalus

Follow-up

Children can have a wide variety of outcomes based on the type of spina bifida they have. There could be little to no affect on a child’s life. In the extreme, patients may need lifelong care for the condition.

Our Team

Jennifer M. Brey, M.D.
Joshua W. Meier, M.D.
Star L. Nixon, M.D.
Kent L. Walker, D.O.
Sarah DuPlessis, PA-C
Andrea E. Ryan, PA-C

Orthopedics – 5678

Contact Us

Connect with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville.

(502) 394-5678

30th annual Snow Ball black tie gala to benefit Norton Children’s Hospital

The Snow Ball, one of the largest annual fundraisers for Norton Children’s Hospital, will be held Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Omni Louisville Hotel. This black tie event is now in its 30th year and, […]

Read Full Story

Pediatrician debunks 5 myths about the flu

Should I get a flu shot? Can you get sick from the flu shot? Does the flu shot work? There are a lot of questions about the flu shot and the flu out there –– and […]

Read Full Story

How parents can help kids manage early puberty

Going through puberty can be a challenge for any child. But children who experience early puberty can have physical, social and emotional challenges that their peers may not, according to researchers. Early puberty or precocious […]

Read Full Story

How to treat a fever –– a pediatrician’s answer

Winter brings the holidays, time with family and friends and lower temperatures outside. It also brings cold and flu season. Even the common cold can cause a dreaded phenomenon: a fever. Developing a fever is […]

Read Full Story

Sisters’ bond helps family manage epilepsy

Seven years ago, my younger sister, Samantha, was diagnosed with epilepsy. Who would have thought that fluttering her eyes was actually a seizure? Sam didn’t seem herself, and so our pediatrician ordered a sleep-deprived electroencephalogram […]

Read Full Story

Search our entire site.