How is spina bifida treated?
Treatment for spina bifida occulta
If your baby is born with spina bifida occulta, you may not find out about it until the baby has grown into a child and happens to receive an X-ray. Even then, some types of this condition are not found until adulthood. This can be a normal variant and does not usually cause any problems.
Treatment for meningocele spina bifida
If your child has a meningocele, treatment could include surgery, which may be performed to remove the bulge. Tests before and after surgery could include X-rays, CT scan or an MRI. These babies typically grow up with no long-term health effects.
Treatment for myelomeningocele spina bifida
Our specialists offer innovative options to treat your child with myelomeningocele during pregnancy or after your child is born. We have a specialized team who will work with you to design the best treatment plan for your baby.
Prenatal myelomeningocele repair
Your baby could be diagnosed with and treated for myelomeningocele spina bifida before they're even born. We offer two options for myelomeningocele prenatal surgery: open fetal surgery and fetoscopic repair.
Experts at the Colorado Fetal Care Center can perform open or fetoscopic surgery for myelomeningocele in utero, giving the fetus their best chance at surviving and thriving and decreasing the chance the baby will need a shunt down the line.
When a fetus has an open neural tube defect like myelomeningocele, their nerves are exposed to elements that could cause further harm. A prenatal myelomeningocele repair lets us repair the bulge and cover the exposed spinal cord and nerves, preventing other complications from developing.
Once the procedure is finished, we leave the baby to keep growing and developing in the womb, all while monitoring closely with frequent ultrasounds. Tests before and after open fetal surgery could include prenatal blood tests, amniocentesis and ultrasound.
Learn about Liam, whose MMC we treated before birth:
Postpartum myelomeningocele repair
If your baby is born with myelomeningocele, treatment will include surgery to repair the bulge and cover the exposed spinal cord and nerves.
Prior to and following surgery, our doctors will test the baby’s response to different sensations to check for paralysis in different areas of the baby’s lower body. Additional tests could include X-rays, CT scans and an MRI. These types of tests may occur well after the baby is out of the hospital, and some will experience treatments and tests for the rest of their lives. Although surgery will not repair any nerve damage, the child is expected to live a long life.
A baby born with myelomeningocele and hydrocephalus may have to have a shunt inserted to carry the excess fluid "on the brain" down to the abdominal cavity, which will absorb the fluid. Most shunts are permanent.
Babies who are born with myelomeningocele will have to have continued treatment as they get older. This may include treatment of bowel and bladder function, orthopedic treatment and physical therapy, as well as regular check-ups from his or her pediatrician for other problems. Problems that may occur as the child gets older could include developmental, neurological and physical delays.
Why choose Children's Hospital Colorado for my child's spina bifida?
At Children's Colorado, patients with spina bifida are followed closely in a multi-specialty clinic. That means that an entire team of experts are committed to your child's care, including rehab and physical medicine specialists, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, urologists and geneticists. We also work with physical therapists, orthotists, wheelchair vendors, psychologists and social workers – all in a single visit. This allows your child to get all his or her needs taken care of in one day.
Children's Colorado also offers an Adaptive Recreation for Childhood Health Program for children with spina bifida and other conditions. Learn how this program can help children with spina bifida lead a lifetime of healthy leisure and awareness.