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Spinal Dysraphism and Spina Bifida

What is spinal dysraphism?

Spinal dysraphism is a medical term that refers to neurological disorders related to malformations of the spinal cord. Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a type of spinal dysraphism.

What is tethered spinal cord syndrome?

Tethered spinal cord is another form of spinal dysraphism. In this congenital malformation of the spine, the spinal cord is attached to surrounding tissue. Failure to detect a tethered spinal cord can lead to a sudden catastrophic injury during childhood or adolescence, such as paralysis.

Tethered spinal cord can be diagnosed through the detection of certain skin abnormalities along the midline of the back. Diagnosis may be confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and surgery is usually indicated to prevent any future neurological damage.

What is spina bifida?

Each year, one in a thousand babies are born with spina bifida (meningomyelocele), a malformation of the bones (vertebrae) and/or skin surrounding the spine that can lead to serious infections, problems with bladder and bowel function, hydrocephalus, and paralysis. In most cases, surgical correction of the neural tube defect can prevent such complications.

How are spinal dysraphism and spina bifida diagnosed?

If a child is born with spinal dysraphism or spina bifida, a thorough evaluation by a pediatric neurosurgeon is needed to decide on the best treatment option, including surgery.

  1. Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical and will ask for a detailed family and patient history.
  2. Your doctor may order imaging of the spine using an MRI or ultrasound.

Treatment for spinal dysraphism and spina bifida

The Johns Hopkins difference is seen involves multiple specialties in reviewing the cases of children with spinal dysraphism and spina bifida. Neurosurgeons, pediatric neurologists, pediatric urologists, among others, join together to develop the treatment plan. The team will decide if surgery is the best option.

Surgery for spinal dysraphism and spina bifida

The purpose of surgery is to correct the physical malformation. As these children are born with their spinal cord exposed to the skin, this must be repaired early to prevent infection and neurological deficits.

For spinal dysraphism, the pediatric neurosurgeon will perform surgery to release the tether. In some cases, fat is intertwined within the nerves and during surgery; your pediatric neurosurgeon will remove it.

After Surgery

Follow-up care is extremely important in tracking the progress of a child’s recovery. Your pediatric neurosurgeon will schedule follow-up appointments to make sure your child is making a full recovery and seeing the other specialists important to their care.

To request a consultation or make an appointment, please contact Johns Hopkins Pediatric Neurosurgery at 410-955-7337.

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Pediatric Neurosurgery: 410-955-7337


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