What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida, a neural tube defect (NTD), is the most frequently occurring permanently disabling birth defect. It is the incomplete formation of the spine and spinal cord, which is thought to occur before the 28th day after conception.  This defect affects approximately one out of every 1,000 newborns in the United States.  In fact, approximately, 40% of all Americans may have spina bifida and may not ever know they have the defect.

Many factors play a role in the development of spina bifida; genetics, the mother's diet before conception and during pregnancy and the environment of the unborn baby are believed to be factors, however no one factor alone is thought to be responsible.  A combination of these and other unknown factors may contribute to the occurence of spina bifida.

In severe cases, the spinal cord protrudes through the back and may be covered by skin or a thin membrane. Surgery to close a newborn^s back is generally performed 24-72 hours after birth to minimize the risk of infection and to preserve existing function in the spinal cord. The exposure of the spinal cord usually results in some damage to it at the point of exposure which results in limited brain signals to and from muscles and body organs below the exposure point.  Limited communication to and from the brain to muscles and body organs frequently results in reduced development of normal body function. Although spina bifida is originally a skeletal defect, there are a significant number of directly related conditions which precipitate from the defect in the spine. People who are born with spina bifida may have; paralysis, hydrocephalus, latex allergies, learning disabilities and bladder and bowel complications.

Click here for descriptions of the four most common types of spina bifida.