Neural Tube Defects

Also known as: NTDs, birth defects, brain defects (anencephaly, encephalocele Etc) - spinal cord defects (myelomeningocele Etc)

What are neural tube defects?

A neural tube defect is a birth defect that occurs very early in the development of a fetus, often during the first month of pregnancy, where the brain, spinal cord and spinal column do not develop normally. In some children there is an open defect at birth which needs to be repaired within 24 hours while others may have a skin covered swelling which can be repaired more electively.

There are many types types of neural tube defects, some examples are:  

What causes neural tube defects?

The precise causes of neural tube defects are unclear, however certain groups of people, genetic inheritance  and environmental factors all seem to be involved; for example-being Hispanic, having a previously affected baby or having a lack of the Vitamin B folic acid during pregnancy, obesity, seizure medications, and failure to control diabetes during pregnancy have all been suggested to increase risk.
 

What are the symptoms of neural tube defects?

Symptoms vary widely depending on the type of neural tube defect. Children with spina bifida and related defects may have trouble walking, paralysis or bowel and bladder problems. Children with neural tube defects that affect the brain may have developmental delays, learning disabilities or seizures. Some neural tube defects are fatal.
 

What are neural tube defect care options?

Neural tube defects cannot be cured, and much of the damage caused by them cannot be reversed. Several treatments are available to prevent certain symptoms from getting worse and to manage the symptoms that are present.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 6/12/2018 10:13:51 AM

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