Conditions + Treatments

Spina Bifida in Children

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Contact the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Program

Spina bifida (also known as myelodysplasia) is a general term used to describe a varied group of congenital defects in which the fetal spinal cord (posterior neural tube) fails to close completely.  This incomplete fusion leads to a broad range of abnormalities that range dramatically from mild defects to severe deformities.  The most serious cases of spina bifida affect both the spinal cord and brain.

The cause of spina bifida is unknown, but it’s believed that genetic, nutritional and environmental factors may all play a role.

At birth, infants with severe spina bifida require complex medical and neurosurgical care. In most cases, careful assessments are required to detect possible related associated medical, neurosurgical, orthopedic and urological conditions. Continued evaluation, including monitoring development, will be done to avoid potential problems and optimize the well-being of children with spina bifida.

How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches spina bifida

The Spina Bifida Program at Boston Children’s Hospital is one of nation’s largest multidisciplinary centers for the care of children with spina bifida (myelodysplasia).

Our program is a coordinated effort between specialists in neurosurgery, urology, orthopedics, complex care pediatrics, nephrology, physical therapy, neuropsychology, social work and other specialties as needed. Working together as a team allows us to discuss our findings in a collaborative environment

From performing prenatal ultrasound imaging ( to confirm or eliminate a possible diagnosis of spina bifida) to designing and prescribing corrective casts and other orthopedic devices) to complex surgical procedures,  we are committed to designing a treatment plan that fits the individual needs and circumstances of your child, and to providing emotional and educational support for your entire family.

Spina bifida: Reviewed by Lawrence Karlin, MD
© Children’s Hospital Boston, 2012

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