Spina Bifida in Children

What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida — a term that means “split spine” — is a condition that occurs when the brain, spinal cord or the membranes that cover them (meninges) do not completely develop. It is the most common neural tube defect in the U.S.

What are the symptoms of spina bifida?

The symptoms of spina bifida vary widely depending on the type of spina bifida a child has.

Many children with spina bifida don’t have any symptoms or only have mild symptoms. These may include:

  • a small clump of hair or a dimple or birthmark on the spine
  • chronic constipation with no other cause
  • chronic urinary or bowel incontinence with no other cause
  • chronic urinary tract infections
  • leg or back pain
  • limping
  • toe walking
  • scoliosis

Other children have symptoms that are noticeable at birth, such as an opening in the spine or a sac that protrudes from the spine.