Spina bifida is a congenital condition (meaning it is present at birth) that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings. Nemours’ spina bifida experts are uniquely prepared to treat the medical challenges of the condition while giving children the tools they need to grow into active, independent adults.
The term spina bifida comes from Latin and literally means "split" or "open" spine. Though the cause is unknown, the spine’s failure to close properly happens during the first month of pregnancy.
A child born with spina bifida (also called myelomeningocele), or the related disorder lipomeningocele (when the “open” spine is covered over by an area of fatty tissue), often has some sort of damage to the nerves of the spinal cord. The extent of this damage can vary widely, but may include paralysis in the lower extremities and loss of bowel and bladder control. Children with spina bifida may also have hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), and some may also experience attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other learning difficulties.