A birth defect involving an abnormal opening in the spinal bones (vertebrae) is called spina bifida. The spinal vertebrae have not formed and joined normally, leaving an opening.
A defect which also includes a small, moist sac (cyst) protruding through the spinal defect, containing a portion of the spinal cord membrane (meninges), spinal fluid, and a portion of spinal cord and nerves is called a meningocele, myelomeningocele, or meningomyelocele.
Surgical treatment is needed to repair the defect and is usually done within 12 to 24 hours after birth to prevent infection, swelling, and further damage.
While the baby is deep asleep and pain-free (using general anesthesia), an incision is made in the sac and some of the excess fluid is drained off. The spinal cord is covered with the membranes (meninges) and the skin is closed over the protruding meninges, spinal cord, and nerves.
The long-term result depends on the condition of the spinal cord and nerves. Outcomes range from normal development to paralysis (paraplegia).
Infants may require about 2 weeks in the hospital after surgery.
Last reviewed 2/9/2011 by Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
- The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
- A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.
- Call 911 for all medical emergencies.
- Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.
Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.