Conditions + Treatments

What is Spina Bifida?

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Contact the Spina Bifida and Spinal Cord Conditions Center

  • 1-617-355-8532
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.

Types of Spina Bifida

There are three major types of spina bifida:

Spina bifida occulta (hidden)

The mildest and most common form of the condition. A gap exists in at least one of the bones in the spine (vertebrae), but the skin is intact and the nerves and spinal cord don’t protrude. This form of spina bifida is present in 10-20 percent of the population, and rarely causes symptoms or disability.

Meningocele

A moderate (and the least common) form of spina bifida. Membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges) protrude through a defect in the spinal column. Surgery can usually repair these meninges with little risk of nerve damage.

Myelomeningocele

The most severe form of spina bifida. The backbone and spinal cord fail to close and the spinal cord does not develop normally. Children with this type are often fully or partially paralyzed below the defect and have difficulty with bladder and bowel control. Nerve damage and other severe brain impairments are also common.

Make an Appointment

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.

Spina Bifida Nurse Line at Boston Children's

If you have a medical question about your child with spina bifida, please call our Nurse Line at 617-355-7704.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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