Spina Bifida Center | Spina Bifida Surgery

Boston Children’s Hospital is the birthplace of pediatric neurosurgery and home of the #1 ranked Orthopedic, Urology and Neurosurgical centers by U.S. News & World Report. You can feel confident that your child’s surgery is in the most experienced hands possible.

Neonatal Spina Bifida Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital

If your baby is born with myelomeningocele, the most common and severe form of spina bifida, he or she will require surgery within the first few days of life. Immediately upon delivery, our team will examine your baby and cover the spinal defect with a sterile dressing.

After visiting with you, your baby will receive care in our world class Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where, within 24-48 hours, he or she will receive necessary surgery to close the defect and minimize the risk of infection or further trauma. If you delivered at Brigham & Women’s Hospital or the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, you will be able to access the NICU by a pedestrian bridge or a walk across the street and visit your baby whenever you want.

Spinal Cord Detethering at Boston Children’s

For many children born with spina bifida, their spinal cord can become abnormally attached to the tissues around the spine. As a result, the spinal cord can’t move freely as it should. This is known as tethered cord syndrome, and it is very treatable.

Surgical approaches can vary widely in duration and complexity. Some procedures may be relatively quick and simple. Untethering surgery is more involved in children who have tumors or fatty deposits on the spinal cord.

At Boston Children's, we use the most sophisticated technology available to treat this condition, such as:

•   Contact YAG (yttrium-aluminum-garnet) and CO2 laser, which use high-energy beams of light to
    puncture or cut away precise areas of tissue

•   Operating microscope, a highly sensitive microscope capable of great levels of magnification and used in
    virtually all untethering surgeries at Boston Children's

•   Ultrasonic bone cutting scalpel if bone removal is needed

We take great caution to ensure proper healing of the wound. In addition to pain medication, we may also recommend that your child have a couple days of bed rest. Certain motions like twisting and/or bending may be limited for a while.

ETV/CPC Alternative to Shunting

Endoscopic third ventriculostomy/choroid plexus cauterization (ETC/CPC) is a minimally invasive that treats hydrocephalus in children whose disease stems from an obstruction between the ventricles. It also eliminates a future dependence on shunts.

Benjamin Warf, MD, a Boston Children's neurosurgeon and director of our Neonatal and Congenital Anomaly Neurosurgery, received a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for his work developing this surgery to treat hydrocephalus in infants. Dr. Warf works very closely with the Center for Disease Control, the March of Dimes, and other internationally recognized organizations to help prevent and treat the nearly 300,000 children born with Spina Bifida worldwide.

Worldwide Leaders in Hydrocephalus Treatment

Boston Children's Hospital has been a worldwide innovator in diagnosing and treating hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain) for decades. This condition is very common with spina bifida and can lead to serious, long-term neurological damage if not treated promptly.

Over 60 years ago, we were the first hospital in the world to treat hydrocephalus with shunting, which reroutes excess fluid from the brain into another body cavity. It is the most common treatment used today.

Our neurosurgeons continue to be leaders in the treatment of hydrocephalus by introducing, improving and teaching new, minimally invasive treatments that eliminate the need for shunts.

Robotic Bladder Augmentation at Boston Children’s

Bladder complications are common among children with spina bifida—often the bladder is too small or too stiff to fully expand. This results in incontinence and kidney damage. Bladder augmentation is a surgery that increases size to improve its ability to stretch.

We are one of only a very few hospitals that offers minimally invasive, robotic bladder augmentation surgery. Our surgeons use this approach whenever possible; not all children are a candidate for this minimally invasive technique.

Using the da Vinci Surgical System, we can operate on your child’s bladder through just a few small incisions. The da Vinci System features a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and tiny instruments that bend and rotate with extreme precision. This minimally invasive approach reduces pain, scarring and recovery time for your child.