Author(s): Solveig M. Hart, PT, MSPT, BoardCertified Pediatric Clinical Specialist | Disclosures Spina bifida is a birth defect that develops when an infant's spinal cord does not completely close during the early stages of the mother's pregnancy, causing both physical and intellectual disabilities. Myelomeningocele, which is the focus of this clinical summary, is the most common form. As more individuals with spina bifida are living longer lives, physical therapists can help children and adults with spina bifida gain and maintain mobility and function at their best throughout all stages of life. For more information about spina bifida for patients and families, visit the American Physical Therapy Association's MoveForward site. Overview Types | Incidence and Prevalence |Impact on Daily Life Spina bifida is a neural tube defect due to the failure of the posterior aspect of the vertebrae to close during fetal development. This defect can be categorized as occulta (hidden) or aperta (visible). (1) There are 3 types of spina bifida aperta (1): Meningocele is the mildest form; only the meninges and sac of spinal fluid protrude under the skin. Myelomeningocele is the most common form; spinal fluid, meninges, and neural tissue within the sac protrude under the skin, and sometimes skin is absent. Myeloschisis (rachischisis) is the most severe form; nerve tissue is fully exposed, and a cleft forms in the spinal cord when the neural folds fail to close during neural tube development.
Bechtel Driscoll, C. F., Ohanian, D., Papadakis, J. L., Stern, A., Zabel, T. A., Zebracki, K., & Holmbeck, G. N. (2018). Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele. In Neuropsychological Conditions Across the Lifespan (pp. 24–44). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316996751.003