Spinal meningocele (sometimes called spina bifida) is one of the most common birth defects in infants. During normal in utero development, the spine (or backbone) closes around a baby’s spinal cord to protect it. In babies with meningocele, the bones do not close completely, leaving an opening where the tissues and fluid that surround the spinal cord can bulge out. If a baby doesn’t have skin covering this area when they’re born, they may need emergency surgery.
Spina bifida can be diagnosed during pregnancy or after birth, and treated with surgery and rehabilitation.
Meningocele symptoms vary depending on the size of the bulge and where it’s located on the spine. Spina bifida causes very little nerve damage, but it can cause other minor disabilities including:
A spina bifida diagnosis is possible before the baby is born by getting screened during pregnancy. If the meningocele diagnosis isn’t made until after the baby is born, the following tests may be performed:
Meningocele sometimes occurs alongside other medical conditions, such as:
If your baby has meningocele, your Aurora care team at the Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute (ANII) will determine the best course of spina bifida treatment based on your child’s specific case.
Often, meningocele treatment begins with repairing the spinal defect and closing the skin over the area. After surgery, your doctors will talk with you about the follow-up care your child will need, including rehabilitation.
Because there is a greater risk of having another child with meningocele when a sibling has the condition, you may be referred to a genetic counselor to discuss future care and treatment options.