What are the treatment options for open spina bifida?

The first treatment for open spina bifida will be surgery to cover the exposed tissues with skin, carried out within days of the birth in order to prevent infection. Although the procedure is still considered risky and experimental, some doctors have begun operating on fetuses before they are born, while they are still in the uterus. It is believed that this early surgical correction, although it can't undo the damage already done, lessens the chances of later complications developing, including Chiari II and hydrocephalus.

Once the initial surgery is completed, there still remain the treatments for the neurological damage caused by exposure of the spinal cord and membranes. Doctors and physical therapists will often start working with the baby early on to treat muscle damage, paralysis, and bowel and bladder control issues. As the child gets older and begins to want to walk, crutches or leg braces may be required to supplement weak muscles. If the spinal malformation was high enough on the back, the child may be confined to a wheelchair at least part of the time. In any case, further surgeries may be required to address specific issues; for example, when hydrocephalus develops, a special drain called a shunt must be implanted to siphon off fluid building up around the brain.

Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Most Children's hospitals have clinics especially designed for children with spina bifida.  These clinics bring together the professionals commonly involved in the child's care in to one place: orthopaedic surgeon, neurosurgeon, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.  Getting connected with a good group is important for maximizing the care of a person with an open spina bifida and minimizing their morbidity.

Continue Learning about Spina Bifida

When should I start encouraging independence in my child with spina bifida?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
Developing independence can be especially challenging for children with spina bifida. Parents should...
More Answers
Is spina bifida serious?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
 The seriousness of spina bifida depends on the severity of the spine defect and related nerve damag...
More Answers
What is open spina bifida?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Open spina bifida is the less common version of the birth defect spina bifida, also known as cleft s...
More Answers
How many people are affected by spina bifida?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect affecting babies in the United States. Out of the...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.