Myelomeningocele

Also known as: spina bifida

What is myelomeningocele?

A myelomeningocele is a bulge or sac of the fluid that surround the spinal cord. It's usually seen in the lower back, and results from a congenital defect in the closing of the babys' bony spinal column (vertebral column).

Spina bifida refers to the specific gap in the bony spinal column that protects the spinal cord.

What causes myelomeningocele?

The cause of myelomeningocele isn't entirely clear. It appears to be caused by some combination of genetic factors and environmental exposures. Lack of folic acid in the diet of pregnant women, antiseizure medications, obesity and poorly controlled diabetes all appear to increase the risk.

What are the symptoms of myelomeningocele?

There are three main types of myelomeningocele. Depending on the severity of the type, symptoms can vary from minimal, to difficulties in bladder and bowel control, hydrocephalus (increased collection of fluid in the brain), difficulties in walking and various other complications.

What are myelomeningocele care options?

While there is no cure for the nerve damage that occurs with myelomeningoceles, standard treatment is surgery after delivery (surgical treatment during pregnancy is another possibility). After birth, most infants/children will need a team of specialists to provide best long-term care.

The Fetal Care Center and Brain Institute Teams at Nicklaus Children's Hospital

The Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s is devoted to the care of infants prediagnosed with medical needs in utero that will require intervention at birth. In collaboration with the Brain Institute’s Division of Neurosurgery, they offer the best possible care and outcomes for patients.

The Nicklaus Children's multidisciplinary team of pediatric subspecialists including pediatric surgeons, ob/gyns, neonatologists, cardiologists and other specialists collaborate with prenatal care providers in the community and beyond to provide families comprehensive, coordinated care and support from prenatal testing to delivery, postnatal care and the transition to infant care.


Reviewed by: John Ragheb, MD

This page was last updated on: January 05, 2021 04:16 PM

Fetal Care Center

The Fetal Care Center is dedicated to families expecting an infant with medical needs that require intervention at birth. The facility offers comprehensive, coordinated care from prenatal diagnosis to delivery, postnatal care and the transition to infant care.

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Patient Success Stories

Maddy's Success Story

When Maddy was only 12 hours old, she was flown to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to undergo the first of several surgeries to treat spina bifida, a congenital condition that affects the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. Thanks to a multidisciplinary team approach, Maddy received coordinated care by an array of subspecialists.  Read More.

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Shunt Placement

A shunt is a valve that is connected to a catheter to divert excess cerebral spinal fluid to another part of the body for absorption. Our neurosurgeons use various types of shunt valves, both fixed pressure and programmable valves to treat hydrocephalus in babies and children. These options are determined based on each patient's individual needs. Learn more