The best treatment and surgery for your child’s spina bifida depends on a number of factors. These include their age, their health history, the type and severity of the disease and their history with other various medications and treatments. Spina bifida, which is a deformity of the spine that happens at birth, affects children at various levels. Myelomeningocele is the most severe form of this disease.
Spina Bifida Diagnosis
Spina bifida can significantly affect a child’s quality of life and can lead to multiple other complications. If you are pregnant or think you are pregnant, it is important to be seen regularly by your doctor to check for any complications during pregnancy. In order to diagnose your child while still in the womb, the doctor will ask a variety of questions. Then, several tests will be performed to find out if the child may be at risk for any diseases:
Nonsurgical Treatment for Spina Bifida
If the type of spina bifida the child has is mild, most children will not require treatment. However, in cases of myelomeningocele spina bifida, the child will likely require many treatments throughout their lifetime, starting from the first days after birth. These treatments make conditions better, but there is no cure for this disease.
Surgery for Spina Bifida (Myelomeningocele)
In most cases, spina bifida myelomeningocele requires surgery within a few days after birth. While the surgery cannot cure the disease, the aim is to prevent symptoms from worsening over time. The doctor may perform the surgery using the following techniques:
One of the most well-known research cases on this disease was performed in 2010, through a study called the MOMS. This study looked at 183 expectant mothers with children who were already diagnosed with spina bifida. They conducted tests on the efficacy of performing surgery on the fetus while it was still in the womb. In this study, fetal skin grafts were used to cover the spine in an effort to prevent further exposure to amniotic fluids and reduce the symptoms early on. While there were obvious risks involved with both the mother and child, the benefits were found to far outweigh these risks. The benefits were clear: with reduced hindbrain herniation, reduced need for shunts in post-birth surgery, and the reduced severity of the neurological effects, the study determined this pre-birth surgery a success.
Now, the surgery is being performed more regularly, but tests are still being done to reduce the risks involved for the mother and child. In Germany, a study is ongoing that involves a minimally invasive approach through only five small incisions. This approach has been proven to have similar effects as that performed in the MOMS study and is being tested further.
As research on prenatal surgery is ongoing, it is a good idea for your conversation about it with your doctor to be ongoing as well.
The Rehabilitation Network of the North Shore-LIJ Health System is dedicated to providing you and your family with result-oriented, comprehensive rehabilitation services. Our goal is to help you and your loved ones find relief from pain and get moving again after an accident, illness, injury or surgery. We’re your partner in a safe, healthy, more rapid recovery.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute in New York performs spina bifida surgery as well as a broad range of nonsurgical and surgical treatments for conditions that affect the bones.