Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a birth imperfection, an incomplete closing of membranes and backbones surrounding the spinal cord. There are three different types of Spina Bifida:

  1. Occulta :Derived from the Latin phrase meaning “hidden”, Occulta is the least severe form of Spina Bifida. Its vertebrae are not completely closed, but the only noticeable feature is a possible hair spot on the back or a small scar. Research studies approximate that 10-20% of the population suffers from this birth defect, although many people don’t notice they even have it. At times, one can stumble upon the discovery of Occulta Spina Bifida through a coincidental X-Ray.
  2. Meningocele: The least common form of Spina Bifida, Meningocele forces the meninges (membranes that support the spinal cord) in between the vertebrae. This restricts the spinal cord and decreases its ability to move and adapt. Because of the restrictions, the only way to rid of this is to surgically remove the problem meninges.
  3. Myelomeningocele:The worst type of Spina Bifida, Myelomeningocele actually forces the spinal cord to protrude from the victim’s skin. This can also have the most serious consequences. Its open wound forms a sac that can be infected and lead to complications such as meningitis in children. There is also often some paralysis and immobility involved because of this defect. This must be treated with extreme caution, care, and urgency.
    All of the forms of Spina Bifida are extremely unfortunate for people of all ages, whether they are young victims or older that notice their defect a bit late. Children especially however see the symptoms early if they are severe enough. They may be partially immobile, have bladder issues, and can have skin complications. All forms of Spina Bifida should be treated as soon as possible, whether it be for therapy or surgery.


While there is no complete cure for Spina Bifida, there are steps one can take in the process of treatment in order to alleviate pain and increase mobility and comfort for a child. If diagnosed during a pregnancy, surgery can be done in order to create the best conditions for a slow development of the Spina Bifida.

Children with Spina Bifida Occulta typically don’t require treatment. It is often not even detected and does not cause too much discomfort or disability.

Children with Spina Bifida Meningocele often develop an excess of fluid in the brain, which must be surgically removed. This condition is known as hydrocephalus, brought on by the spinal damage caused by Spina Bifida.

For children with Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele, the most severe form, urgent care must take place. By quickly correcting spinal defects and draining excess fluid of the brain, doctors can minimize risk. The longer it takes for treatment, the more a child’s spinal cord will be affected. Similarly to meningocele, hydrocephalus could be an impacting condition. Although there is no cure, proper treatment can improve outcomes and quality of life for children with Spina Bifida.

Bergen Pediatric Therapy can provide occupational therapy and physical therapy for children with Spina Bifida and assure all bodily functions are optimized.

Contact us to learn how we can help your child or schedule a complimentary evaluation of your child’s needs and free facility tour.

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