Children with spina bifida often have hydrocephalus, which consists of excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain.
According to the Spina Bifida Association of America (SBAA), over 73 percent of people with spina bifida develop an allergy to latex, ranging from mild to life-threatening. The common use of latex in medical facilities makes this a particularly serious concern. The most common approach is to try to avoid development of the allergy by avoiding contact with latex-containing products such as examination gloves, catheters, and many of the products used by dentists.
In occulta, the outer part of some of the vertebrae are not completely closed. The split in the vertebrae is so small that the spinal cord does not protrude. The skin at the site of the lesion may be normal, or it may have some hair growing from it; there may be a dimple in the skin, a lipoma, a dermal sinus or a birthmark.
Many people with the mildest form of this type of spina bifida do not even know they have it, as the disease is asymptomatic in most cases. More recent studies not included in the review support the negative findings.
However, other studies suggest spina bifida occulta is not always harmless. One study found that among patients with back pain, severity is worse if spina bifida occulta is present.
Spina Bifida Cystica
A cyst protrudes through the defect in the vertebral arch. These conditions can be diagnosed in utero on the basis of elevated levels of alpha-fetoprotein after amniocentesis and by ultrasound imaging. Spina bifida cystica may result in hydrocephalus and neurological deficits.
The least common form of spina bifida is a posterior meningocele (or meningeal cyst).
In a posterior meningocele, the vertebrae develop normally, however the meninges are forced into the gaps between the vertebrae. As the nervous system remains undamaged, individuals with meningocele are unlikely to suffer long-term health problems, although there are reports of tethered cord.
Causes of meningocele include teratoma and other tumors of the sacrococcyx and of the presacral space, and Currarino syndrome.
In this, the most serious and common form, the unfused portion of the spinal column allows the spinal cord to protrude through an opening. The meningeal membranes that cover the spinal cord form a sac enclosing the spinal elements. Spina bifida with myeloschisis is the most severe form of spina bifida cystica. In this defect, the involved area represented by a flattened, plate-like mass of nervous tissue with no overlying membrane. The exposure of these nerves and tissues make the baby more prone to life-threatening infections.
The protruded portion of the spinal cord and the nerves which originate at that level of the cord are damaged or not properly developed. As a result, there is usually some degree of paralysis and loss of sensation below the level of the spinal cord defect. Thus, the higher the level of the defect the more severe the associated nerve dysfunction and resultant paralysis. People may have ambulatory problems, loss of sensation, deformities of the hips, knees or feet and loss of muscle tone. Depending on the location of the lesion, intense pain may occur originating in the lower back, and continuing down the leg to the back of the knee.
Many individuals with spina bifida will have an associated abnormality of the cerebellum, called the Arnold Chiari II malformation. In affected individuals the back portion of the brain is displaced from the back of the skull down into the upper neck. In approximately 90 percent of the people with myelomeningocele, hydrocephalus will also occur because the displaced cerebellum interferes with the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
The myelomeningocele (or perhaps the scarring due to surgery) tethers the spinal cord. In some individuals this causes significant traction on the spinal cord and can lead to a worsening of the paralysis, scoliosis, back pain, or worsening bowel and/or bladder function.
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