Diagnosis and treatment for Spina Bifida
What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is a Neural tube defect (NTD). An NTD occurs when the neural tube does not shut correctly. After a few days of the conception of a child, the neural tube forms in the embryo and then closes. The neural tube inevitably becomes the baby's spinal cord, skull, and brain. Sometimes a portion of the tube doesn't close properly. It causes abnormalities in the spinal cord and the vertebrae. This condition is due to Spina Bifida.
The symptoms are dependent!
The symptoms of Spina Bifida depend on the type and severity of the condition. It can also differ for each individual. It is best to learn about the major types of Spina Bifida to understand the symptoms-
- Spina Bifida Occulta- Since the spinal nerves aren't involved, there may not be signs or symptoms. Sometimes you can see signs on the baby's skin above the spinal defect. It may be in the form of an unusual patch of hair or a small birthmark.
Often skin marks can be signs of a spinal cord issue and can be pinpointed using an MRI or spinal ultrasound on a newborn.
- Myelomeningocele- This is a grave type of Spina Bifida. The spinal cord and nerves mature outside the body of the newborn. They are in a fluid-filled sac that is visible around the back area of the baby. The symptoms include lack of sensation in their feet, poor bowel control, twisted or abnormal feet, impaired cognitive development, etc.
The Prenatal and Postnatal Diagnosis!
- An Ultrasound- A fetal ultrasound, to determine whether the child has Spina Bifida or not, is recommended during the first and second trimester. And the diagnosis can be more accurate during the second time.
- MSAFP screen- It is a screening procedure that is used to measure the level of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in a pregnant woman. AFP gets produced by the placenta and the fetus. During pregnancy, a small amount enters the mother's bloodstream. Abnormally high levels of AFP in the Maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein ( MSAFP) screen can indicate spina bifida or any other neural tube defect.
- Postnatal diagnosis- An MRI or CT scan can get a clearer view of the spinal cord and also the bones of the spine. An MRI or CT scan may help to check for extra cerebrospinal fluid inside the brain. A postnatal ultrasound of the head can also be done to evaluate the excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid.
Even if there is no cure for spina bifida, it can still be managed using many procedures-
- Surgery- There is both prenatal and postnatal surgery. Prenatal surgery includes first opening up the mother's abdomen. And then sewing shut the abnormal opening in the neural tube of the baby. A child who has not undergone prenatal surgery will have surgery to close the defect and thus manage the risk of infection and further trauma
- Orthopedic surgery- It is to improve the mobility of the baby. Surgery is on their legs and feet.
- Use of walking aids to improve lifestyle.
- Diet and managing fecal incontinence- Continence pads or urinary/fecal bags are of help.
- Regular monitoring and checkups.
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