If a child is born with spina bifida, his/hers bone part that protects the spinal cord is not developed as it should be. Spinal cord nerves are unclosed and unprotected, and may be defective. The lower part of the spine is usually affected.
Spinal nerves in the area control the lower limb muscles, urinary bladder and bowel movements, and the child born with this disorder will have partial paralysis of the legs and urinary and stool incontinence. In some children, this defect is mild and does not cause any physical problems. The only visible defect can be a smaller skin dimple somewhere on the baby’s back. However, in other children, a complete loss of function of the lower body may occur, and the split in the spine is covered with a large purple-red membrane. Between these two extremes, the entire spectrum of disability is possible – from minimal to severe.
In the UK, about one in 700 children with spina bifida is born annually. Some of these newborns also have hydrocephalus.
A fragile membrane on the child’s spine can be damaged even before the start of the treatment. If an infection passes into celebrospinal fluid, meningitis will occurs. Bladder infections are common in severe cases, and several others additional dangers are associated with hydrocephalus.
There is no cure for spina bifida. Disorders that occur during the creation of spinal cord can not be corrected, and any possible paralysis will be lifelong. In most cases, surgery can fix the membrane on the baby’s back soon after birth, but there is no treatment for spinal nerves.
Prospects for a child with spina bifida are quite different and depend on the severity and degree of the disorder. Operations are occasionally performed to correct the leg deformation or to enable the child to control the urinary bladder (although many patients achieve that naturally their youth). Mentally healthy patients can attend a school – a regular school for those rare children who have minimal leg paralysis or a special school for disabled children.