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Between 1,400 and 2,000 babies are born with spina bifida in the U.S. each year—but not all of these children have the same needs. Our Spina Bifida Center develops treatment plans customized to meet the varied needs and changing circumstances of every child’s unique condition.
Spina bifida – a term that means “split spine” – happens when the brain, spinal cord and/or meninges (protective covering around the brain and spinal cord) do not completely develop. It is the most common neural tube defect in the U.S.
The cause of spina bifida remains unknown. It is associated with genetic, nutritional and environmental factors. Research studies indicate that a key factor may be a lack of folic acid—a common B vitamin—in a pregnant woman’s diet. This is one reason why prenatal vitamins, which typically contain folic acid, are recommended to women during pregnancy.
More than 90 percent of cases occur without a prior family history. However, if one parent has spina bifida, there’s a 1 in 25 (4 percent) chance of passing spina bifida to your baby. If you already have a child with spina bifida, there’s a 1 in 25 (4 percent) chance of having another baby with the condition.
There are three major types of spina bifida:
The signs and symptoms of spina bifida vary widely, depending on the type and its severity. In cases of severe spina bifida (myelomeningocele) symptoms and associated health problems typically include:
Boston Children’s Hospital is renowned for advanced and accurate spina bifida testing and compassionate prenatal care of spina bifida. Many families come to our center for definitive diagnosis, comprehensive prenatal and postnatal testing or an objective second opinion. Tests to detect spina bifida include:
Learn more about the spina bifida testing options we offer at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Our pioneering advancements and roadmap for treatment set a precedent for spina bifida centers around the world. Our approach includes caring for the whole child and their families—from minimally invasive surgeries to increase life span and improve quality of life to transition care for adults with spina bifida.
Most babies born with spina bifida will require surgery within 24-48 hours to repair the spine, followed by additional surgeries throughout their lifetime. At Boston Children’s, our doctors and specialists have led the way in spina bifida surgery for decades, including:
Learn more about these and other spina bifida treatments at Boston Children’s Hospital.
For an appointment, more information or to obtain a second opinion for your child, please call us at 617-355-8532 or request an appointment online.
If you have a medical question about your child with spina bifida, please call our Nurse Line at 617-355-7704.
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