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Neural Tube Defects

Malformations of the spinal cord that are present at birth, such as spina bifida, tethered spinal cord, meningocele, myelomeningocele and others, are examples of neural tube defects. Johns Hopkins’ experts approach each child individually and use a multidisciplinary approach for treatment.

Neural Tube Disorders: Why Choose Johns Hopkins?

an illustration of a fetus with spina bifida
  • Led by a neurosurgeon, your child’s team will include accomplished specialists with vast experience in approaching spina bifida and other neural tube problems.
  • If surgery is indicated for your child, you can be assured of the most advanced technology and skilled pediatric neurosurgeons to put it to use.
  • Pediatric neurosurgical patients are cared for at the renowned Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, which offers comprehensive care and support for the entire family as well as the individual child.
  • Your team will assist you in understanding your child’s condition and what you can expect from treatment. Multidisciplinary experts, including orthopaedists and rehabilitation specialists can be part of your child’s ongoing treatment.
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Neural Tube Defect Treatments

Treatment for neural tube defects can be complex, but with proper treatment by experienced experts, your child has the best chance of living a fuller life.

The team’s goals are to:

  • Address open areas of your child’s nervous system
  • Prevent infection with appropriate coverings and antibiotics
  • Minimize neurological problems when possible


Treatment depends on your child’s condition, but in some cases surgery is an option.

For example, some children born with spina bifida may have a myelomeningocele, which is a fluid-filled area formed by the lining of the spinal cord and a web of spinal nerves. Your neurosurgeon is likely to recommend surgery to close a myelomeningocele very soon after your baby’s birth.

Tethered cord is another condition that may require surgery. Tethered cord occurs when your baby is born with his or her spinal cord abnormally attached to its surrounding membrane, scar tissue or a bone in the spine. This problem may require surgery called tethered spinal cord release to free the attachment so the spinal cord is not stretched and injured.


Your pediatric neurosurgeon may suggest surgical placement of a shunt, which is a tube that allows extra cerebrospinal fluid to drain from your child’s brain and treat hydrocephalus. 

Neural Tube Defect Specialists

With hundreds of children and their families seeking care from our Johns Hopkins Pediatric Neurosurgery experts, our team has decades of experience in diagnosing and treating even complex neural tube defects.

Dr. Shenandoah RobinsonShenandoah Robinson, M.D., neurosurgeon at the Pediatric Neurosurgery Center


Alan R. Cohen, M.D.
Mari Groves, M.D.
Eric M. Jackson, M.D.
Shenandoah Robinson, M.D.

Advanced Practitioners

Stephanie Berry, P.A.-C
Kelly Hartnett, P.A.-C.
Heather Kerber, P.A.-C.

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Pediatric Neurosurgery: 410-955-7337


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