Monday, October 18, 2010

Focus on Special Needs....Spina Bifida

October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month!

Spina Bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the USA. It can result in varying degrees of paralysis, bowel and bladder complications, water on the brain (hydrocephalus), and learning difficulties.

Each day in the US eight babies are born with Spina Bifida.  Hispanic mothers are one and one half to two times more likely to have a child with Spina Bifinda. 

Spina Bifida is a developmental birth defect caused by the incomplete closure of the embryonic neural tube. Some vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed and remain unfused and open. If the opening is large enough, this allows a portion of the spinal cord to protrude through the opening in the bones. There may or may not be a fluid-filled sac surrounding the spinal cord. Other neural tube defects include anencephaly, a condition in which the portion of the neural tube which will become the cerebrum does not close, and encephalocele, which results when other parts of the brain remain unfused.

Adequate intake of folic acid prior to conception can prevent 75% of the cases of Spina Bifida!

There is no known cure for nerve damage due to spina bifida. To prevent further damage of the nervous tissue and to prevent infection, pediatric neurosurgeons operate to close the opening on the back. During the operation for spina bifida cystica, the spinal cord and its nerve roots are put back inside the spine and covered with meninges. In addition, a shunt may be surgically installed to provide a continuous drain for the cerebrospinal fluid produced in the brain, as happens with hydrocephalus. Shunts most commonly drain into the abdomen.

Many special needs children affected by Spina Bifida are available for adoption worldwide.  Many children with spina bifida are of average or higher intelligence.  It is critical that families adopting a child with Spina Bifida be aware that their child will need to be followed by a neurodevelopmental team throughout life.  Shunt failure or revisions are common as well as bladder and bowel issues. 

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