Causes, Treatment andPrevention
Special Care in Dentistry
John Morgan, DDS
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, 2008
What causes Spina Bifida?
According to NINDS ...
Despite suspected genetic links, 95 percent of babies with SB and other neural tube defects are born to parents with no family history of these disorders. Spina Bifida does not follow any particular pattern of inheritance.
How is Spina Bifida treated?
Spina bifida occulta usually requires no treatment, and meningocele can be repaired surgically. Spina bifida myelomeningocele usually requires surgery within 24 to 48 hours after birth, “to prevent infection from developing through the exposed nerves and tissue of the defect on the spine, and to protect the exposed nerves and structures from additional trauma.” (NINDS)
One recent experimental approach is in utero surgery to enclose the developing baby’s spinal cord. While such surgery “cannot restore lost neurological function, it may prevent additional loss from occurring.” In utero surgery carries risks both to fetus and mother: “The major risks to the fetus are those that might occur if the surgery stimulates premature delivery such as organ immaturity, brain hemorrhage, and death. Risks to the mother include infection, blood loss leading to the need for transfusion, gestational diabetes, and weight gain due to bed rest.” (NINDS)
About 90 percent of children with myelomeningocele develop hydrocephalus. Without treatment, intellectual disability and other neurologic damage may result. Other chronic complications associated with severe SB include obesity, gut and urinary tract disorders, psychological and sexual issues, and learning disabilities. Finally, between 18 and 73 percent of children with SB are allergic to latex (natural rubber).
Can Spina Bifida be prevented?
Research has shown that “by adding folic acid to their diets, women of childbearing age significantly reduce the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida. Therefore, it is recommended that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.” (NINDS) If all women in the Unites States took enough of the B vitamin folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects (including SB) could be prevented.