What is Spina Bifida?

Spina bifida is a condition where the spine has not developed correctly, leaving a gap in the spine.  During the very early stages of pregnancy the embryo (growing baby) develops a structure called the neural tube, which in time will become the spine and a part of the nervous system.

If this neural tube becomes damaged or fails to fuse somewhere along its length from the spinal cord to the brain this will result in a 'neural tube defect' (NTD).

Spina bifida is the most common 'neural tube defect', where the lesion occurs in the spine.

The spine itself consists of a solid bony structure called vertebrae.  Each vertebra is seperated by the spinal discs (shock absorbers of the spine).  Behind the vertebral column (the stack of vertebrae) is an enclosed space called the spinal canal, this contains the spinal cord.  The spinal cord connects every nerve in the body to the brain.  The back part of the vertebra form arches of bone and it is their job; like most bones within the body, to protect the softer and more vulnerable structures, in this case the spinal column.

In spina bifida the back part of the vertebra that arches over does not fully close in some cases, leaving the spinal cord exposed.  In other cases there is only a gap in between the vertebra, but also there may be a time when the spinal cord itself has not formed properly.  Furthermore, the skin that covers the vertebrae on the child's back may also not be intact and there may be a gap exposing the spinal cord.

The exact cause of spina bifida is unknown, but several things can increase your risk of having a baby with the condition, the most significant being a lack of folic acid before and in the early stages of pregnancy.

The Different Types of Spina Bifida

  • Myelomeningocele - involves an opening to the back of the spinal vertebrae, which allows the spinal cord and the meninges (protective membrane) to push out and create a sac in the baby's back.  The lack of protection to the spinal cord can result in significant damage to the nerves that send messages to the lower half of the body.
  • Meningocele - only the meninges push through the opening of the child's spine.  This can normally be corrected with surgery.
  • Spinan bifida occulta - is the most common form of spina bifida.  The opening of the spine is usually very small and covered with skin.  In this case the spinal cord and protective membrane can't push out and there is no visible bulge to the child's back.

How Can Brainwave Help?

At Brainwave we see children with all types of spina bifida.  As the therapists at our three centres see children from all over the country, and overseas, they have the knowledge and experience to help you and your child.

  • Our qualified therapists have the time to explain your child's condition and their presenting problems.
  • We have the time to fully assess your child through play and work around your daily routine.
  • Your child's assessment and therapy programme shall be tailored to their individual needs and your daily routine as a family.
  • We are your advocate and are always here for support and ongoing care.
  • We provide in depth therapy reports that can be sent to your NHS or private medical professionals, as we believe that working together maximises your child's outcomes and quality of care.

    To find out more about how we can help your child please click here to contact us.