Myelomeningocele, commonly referred to as spina bifida is a neural tube defect occurring early in fetal development. The Neural tube fails to close, resulting in varying degrees of spinal cord malformation where the meningeal layers that usually enclose the spinal cord do not close and the cord is open to the environment.
Plastic surgeons and neurosurgeons operate within 24-48hrs post partem (after birth) to close the spinal cord, meningeal layers and skin so as to prevent life threatening infection.
The goal of the surgery is to prevent infection and more trauma to the infant’s spinal cord.
First the dura mater, the outer layer of the meningeal layers, is closed around the spinal cord.
Secondly, the muscle of the back are drawn closed around the area.
Finally, skin is closed over the area. Skin grafts from the infant’s back or buttocks may be used to accomplish this final step.
Depending on the region of the spinal cord affected, the level of neuromuscular disabilities of each individual will vary in severity.
Hydrocephalus: enlarged head resulting from excess cerebrospinal fluid accumulation around the brain. Shunts may be used to drain excess fluid and decrease intracranial pressure.
Seattle Children’s Hospital. Myelomeningocele. Retrived June 20, 2009 from http://neurosurgery.seattlechildrens.org/conditions_treated/myelomeningocele.asp