Spinal Malformations

Brain and spinal cord defects typically occur in early and late development of the fetus in the wound. There are different types of spinal cord defects that can occur, though some are more common than others. The symptoms of a spinal cord defect can include intellectual disability, incontinence, loss of sensation and paralysis. Diagnosing many spinal cord defects will rely on computed tomography imaging or CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scanning.

Types of Spinal Defects

A spinal defect or deformity may exist in a number of different ways, typically depending on what stage in fetal development it presents in. Some of the most common spinal defects are forms of Spina Bifida, which is a neural tube defect that means “split spine.” The neural tube is responsible for developing during the initial four weeks of fetal development, which is a period where most women are unaware of their pregnancy. During this period, the neural tube may develop improperly. If it does not close up completely, then spina bifida is the most common result.

Types of Spina Bifida

There are numerous different types of Spina bifida, but some are more common than others. The most common three forms of Spina bifida are Myelomeningocele, Meningocele and Spina Bifida Occulta.

  • In the first form, Myelomeningocele, there is a sac that contains abnormally formed spinal cord that protrudes out of an opening in the back of the baby. The nerves that are located at this spot and those below it are damaged. When the defect occurs higher up on the spine, the result is that more nerves will be affected. Surgery is required quickly following birth in order to correct this defect.
  • In cases of meningocele, the baby is born and there is a sac protruding from an opening located in the back. Unlike with the previous form, there is no spinal cord contained within this sac. In most cases, there are few nerves that are actually affected by the defect. What this means is that most physicians can quickly repair the back’s affected area shortly after the baby is born without having to worry about any quality of life issues.
  • With Spina Bifida Occulta, the bones that are located around the spinal cord of the baby do not develop in the way that they are supposed to. The nerves within the spinal cord are typically normal, and the skin on the back is typically normal as well. Sometimes you may notice a hair patch, a red discoloration or a dimple at the skin where the defect is located. Surgery is rarely needed following birth in order to repair this defect because it does not normally affect quality of life in the child.

Effects of the Spina Bifida

How the condition affects the child really depends on the location of the birth defect as well as the severity of the actual defect. People suffering from Spina Bifida can generally experience a wide variety of different complications including

  • Allergic reactions
  • Bladder and kidney problems
  • Bowel problems
  • Fractures
  • Excessive fluid in the brain
  • Learning disorders
  • Skin problems
  • Seizures
  • Tethered spinal cord
  • Mobility issues
  • Weight gain

Other Types of Spinal Defects

Spina Bifida is a type of neural tube defect, and another type of neural tube defect is known as anencephaly. As severe as Spina Bifida is, anencephaly is much more severe and most commonly results in babies that are either stillborn, or that die very soon after their births because this condition involves the brain not properly forming prior to birth.

There are other spinal defects as well that are not related to the neural tube. Damage done to the spinal cord, scoliosis and hydrocephalus are some examples of defects that can be diagnosed at birth. Although the spine is a strong and vital part of the skeletal structure, it may also be considered to be relative susceptible to injury or defect, especially during the developmental process when things are still growing and changing.


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