What is Spina Bifida

 

Spina Bifida is described by two Latin words – Spina (Spine) and Bifida (split or divided in).

What is Spina Bifida/

Spina bifida is a neural tube defect. It is the second most common birth defect worldwide, and affects about 1 in every 1000 pregnancies in New Zealand.   Spina Bifida is a complex birth defect.

Spina Bifida results from the failure of the embryos neural tube to develop properly.  If part of the extends the full length of your baby’s back.   In Spina Bifida, the vertebrae (one or more) at one part of the spine are not completely formed, but are divided or split.   Because of this split or division, the spinal cord and its coverings can bulge out from the gap.neural tube does not close, the spinal vertebrae also do not close.    The spine is made up of separate bones called vertebrae.    These vertebrae lie on top of one another to form the long column which extends the full length of your baby’s back.

In Spina Bifida, the vertebrae (one or more) at one part of the spine are not completely formed, but are divided or split.  Because of this split or division, the spinal cord and its coverings can bulge out from the gap.

The incomplete development of the spinal cord can occur anywhere along its length, from the neck to the lower back and results in a variety of medical problems.  At birth the incompletely developed portion of the spinal cord protrudes through the baby’s back.

This protrusion is called a’ meningo-myelocele’ if it includes the spinal cord tissue and a ‘meningocele’ if it contains only the covering layers of the spinal cord.

The spinal cord contains nerves that carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body.  These messages are of two kinds:  Messages from the brain to various muscles to enable movement and messages from the body to the brain providing sensory feedback such as touch, pain and position.

In Spina Bifida, if the nerves are disorganised and damaged through the spinal cord bulging out through the gap in the back, the messages between particular areas and the brain will be interrupted.  The brain, for example, may not be able to tell the leg muscles to move (so there is paralysis) and the toes may not be able to tell the brain that a shoe is pinching them (loss of sensation).

Nerves that control the legs leave the spinal cord from just below the ribs to the hip bones.  Nerves that control the bowel and bladder leave the spinal cord from the lowest part of the spinal cord below the level of the hip bones.  Any damage to the spine above the level at which nerves leave the spinal cord results in weakness.

 

What is Spina Bifida/