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Spina Bifida: Complications Include Scoliosis and Kyphosis

Minor cases of Spina Bifida may not result in any symptoms or disabilities while severe cases almost always do. Common complications that occur in these patients may include the following:

Paralysis (partial or complete) - these patients will require lifelong assistance from wheelchairs, braces, or crutches to help them get around.

Hydrocephalus - an increased amount of fluid in the brain. This is treated with a shunt - a tube that is surgically implanted into the brain and drains the fluid into the abdomen.

Bowel and bladder problems - because the nerves that control these functions have been damaged, patients with Spina Bifida often experience repeated urinary tract infections. This can increase their risk of kidney damage. Fortunately, newer techniques such as clean intermittent catheterization can help eliminate this risk.

Orthopedic problems such as scoliosis (Figure 1), kyphosis (Figure 2), and clubfoot.

Spina Bifida and Scoliosis (Figure 1)

x-ray, spina bifida patient with a typical lumbar scoliosis deformity

x-ray, side view, spina bifida patient with a typical lumbar scoliosis deformity


Figure 1A. Spina Bifida patient with a typical lumbar scoliosis deformity.

x-ray, spina bifida patient following anterior and posterior spinal fusion and instrumentation to correct scoliosis

x-ray, side view, spina bifida patient following anterior and posterior spinal fusion and instrumentation to correct scoliosis

Figure 1B. Following an anterior and posterior spinal
fusion with instrumentation, the scoliosis is corrected.

spina bifida patient before surgery

spina bifida patient before surgery, side view

spina bifida patient after surgery, notice improved sitting balance

spina bifida patient after surgery, side view, notice improved sitting balance

Figure 1C. The before and after clinical photos demonstrate the improved sitting balance.

Spina Bifida and Kyphosis (Figure 2)

x-ray, spina bifida patient with a congenital kyphosis (Gibbus) deformity

x-ray, side view, spina bifida patient with a congenital kyphosis (Gibbus) deformity

Figure 2A. Spina bifida patient with a congenital kyphosis (Gibbus) deformity.

x-ray, spina bifida patient after posterior lumbar kyphectomy, kyphosis corrected

x-ray, side view, spina bifida patient after posterior lumbar kyphectomy, kyphosis corrected

Figure 2B. Following a posterior lumbar kyphectomy
procedure, the kyphosis is completely correction.

spina bifida patient before surgery, notice lumbar bump

spina bifida patient after surgery

Figure 2C. Before and after clinical photos demonstrate the removal of the lumbar bump.

Skin problems such as numbness, inability to feel pain, and skin ulcers caused by an inability to shift their weight on their own. In addition, many patients with Spina Bifida have latex allergies, possibly due to the large amount of latex they are exposed to early in life during surgeries and other procedures.

Spinal cord tethering - when the spinal cord remains attached to the surrounding skin, preventing it from growing normally. The spinal cord then becomes stretched and damaged resulting in progressive neurological, urological, or orthopedic problems. This is usually treated surgically during a child's first year of life.

Chiari malformation - a large number of patients with Spina Bifida have this malformation of the brain in which a portion of the brain and the brain stem extend into the spinal column.

Learning disabilities - many patients with Spina Bifida also experience various forms of learning problems including attention deficit disorders, and problems with language, reading, and math.

Living with Spina Bifida
Over the last decade, surgical advancements and improved treatments have helped to give patients with Spina Bifida a brighter future. With proper care and support, patients with Spina Bifida can live long and productive lives. In addition, new treatments such as corrective surgery while the fetus is still in the womb are being studied and research on early diagnosis and prevention of neural tube defects are ongoing with promising results.
Updated on: 09/07/12
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