One of the first parts of the body to develop is the central nervous system. The neural tube, from which the spinal cord and brain develop, is formed within the first 25 to 28 days of pregnancy. Spina Bifida is caused by the failure of the neural tube to develop properly, hence the term 'neural tube defects'. Related defects are anencephaly (the absence of a brain) and encephalocele (a malformation of the brain and skull). 

Spina bifida is a neural tube birth defect (NTD) which occurs within the first four weeks of pregnancy. The spinal column fails to develop properly resulting in varying degrees of permanent damage to the spinal cord and nervous system. Infants born with spina bifida may have an open lesion on their spine where significant damage to the nerves and spinal cord occurs. Although the spinal opening is surgically repaired shortly after birth, the nerve damage is permanent. This results in varying degrees of paralysis of the lower limbs, depending largely on the location and severity of the lesion. Even with no visible lesion, there may be improperly formed or missing vertebrae, and accompanying nerve damage.

For more information please download our Spina Bifida factsheet



  This video has been produced by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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