Spina Bifida

What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida is a condition in which there is abnormal development of the back bones, spinal cord, surrounding nerves, and the fluid-filled sac that surrounds the spinal cord. This neurological condition can cause a portion of the spinal cord and the surrounding structures to develop outside, instead of inside, the body. The defect can occur anywhere along the spine.

What are the types of spina bifida?

The types of spina bifida include the following:

 Illustration of three different degrees of spina bifida

  • Spina bifida occulta. A mild form of spina bifida in which the spinal cord and the surrounding structures remain inside the baby, but the back bones in the lower back area fail to form normally. There may be a hairy patch, dimple, or birthmark over the area of the defect. Other times, there may be no abnormalities in the area.

  • Meningocele. A moderate form of spina bifida in which a fluid-filled sac is visible outside of the back area. The sac does not contain the spinal cord or nerves.

  • Myelomeningocele. A severe form of spina bifida in which the spinal cord and nerves develop outside of the body and are contained in a fluid-filled sac that is visible outside of the back area. These babies typically have weakness and loss of sensation below the defect. Problems with bowel and bladder function are also common. A majority of babies with myelomeningocele will also have hydrocephalus, a condition that causes the fluid inside of the head to build up, causing pressure inside of the head to increase and the skull bones to expand to a larger than normal size.

Children's Team

Children's Team

Providers

Sarah Evans

Division Chief, Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine
oetgen

Matthew Oetgen

Division Chief, Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine
Our Stories

Our Stories

John Myseros

John Myseros' Story

Dr. Myseros began at Children’s National more than five years ago and has a personal and professional interest in the care of children with tumors of the brain and spinal cord.

Patient story

Mark's Story

"Life with Mark has been a journey of faith. Not only has he enriched our lives, but he has brought into our lives wonderful people who have helped us on our journey. And we also are enriched as we are able to help others."

Departments

Departments

Spina Bifida Program

The Spina Bifida Program at Children’s National Health System is a leader in caring for the infants, children and young adults with deformities and abnormalities of the spine and spinal cord. 

Neurosurgery

Our neurosurgery experts provide advanced care for newborns and children with complex neurological conditions.

Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine

Our orthopaedic experts provide advanced care for children and teens with orthopaedic conditions and sports injuries.

Fetal Medicine Institute

Our fetal medicine team provides specialized, expert care for babies during pregnancy, delivery, and the postnatal period.

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Mark's Story

Patient story

"Life with Mark has been a journey of faith. Not only has he enriched our lives, but he has brought into our lives wonderful people who have helped us on our journey. And we also are enriched as we are able to help others."

Read More of Mark's Story