Spina bifida (or myelomeningocele) is a neural tube defect. The neural tube is a structure which develops in the first month of pregnancy and it forms the brain and spinal cord. When the neural tube does not close all the way, the backbone that protects the spinal cord does not form and close as it should. This results in an opening along the spinal cord known as Spina Bifida, which translates as “Split spine”.
The brain is also affected in spina bifida. The effects of spina bifida on the brain include the Chiari II (Arnold-Chiari) anomaly, in addition to other structural changes which can affect learning, behaviour and perception.
Our department, when using the term spina bifida will be referring to myelomeningocele. The term “spina bifida” may be used more loosely for any child with a congenital spinal problem, eg meningocele, caudal regression. As there are associated functional difficulties in this group similar to those in myelomeningocele, a similar medical and therapeutic approach is beneficial.
We take a functional approach, based on identifying individual strengths and weaknesses, providing support and treatment as required, to address specific goals and priorities. No two children attending our service are identical, experiencing varying degrees of strength and difficulty with mobility, continence, self-care and learning.