What is myelomeningocele?
Myelomeningocele is a severe form of spina bifida in which the spinal cord and nerves develop outside of the body and are contained in a fluid-filled sac that is visible outside of the back area. These babies typically have weakness and loss of sensation below the defect. Problems with bowel and bladder function are also common. A majority of babies with myelomeningocele will also have hydrocephalus, a condition that causes the fluid inside of the head to build up, causing pressure inside of the head to increase and the skull bones to expand to a larger than normal size.
What causes myelomeningocele?
The exact cause is unknown, but a lack of folic acid, exposure to viruses, exposure to radiation, and/or genetics are suspected.
How is myelomeningocele diagnosed?
It is diagnosed with prenatal blood work, amniocentesis, physical exam, and ultrasound. An MRI is sometimes needed to get more information and guide care.
How is it treated?
Most cases of myelomeningocele are treated surgically with a repair soon after birth. In some cases, the repair is done while still in the womb prior to delivery. Children that have hydrocephalus will likely require surgery to decrease fluid on the brain (VP shunt).
Children with myelomeningocele often require care from multiple specialties such as neurology, physical therapy, orthopedics, and more.