Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the vertebrae are not properly formed around the spinal cord. Spina bifida can cause nerve damage leading to deformities of the spine, hip and foot, along with bladder, skin and bowel problems, latex allergies, paralysis, weakness, numbness and lack of physical coordination.
Spina bifida is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, some of which are preventable. Risk factors for pregnant women include the following:
- Folic acid deficiency
- The use of certain medications for epilepsy
- Exposure to chemicals
- Alcohol consumption
- Exposure to high temperatures (e.g., saunas and hot tubs) in the early stages of pregnancy
- Being white or Hispanic
- Previous births to children with spina bifida
Because of the diverse signs and symptoms of spina bifida, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon is just one of the many kinds of healthcare professionals who may become involved in the care of a spina bifida patient. Some orthopaedic problems commonly associated with spina bifida include clubfoot, scoliosis and developmental dysplasia of the hip. These may be treated with exercise, physical therapy and/or surgery.
To learn more about pediatric orthopaedic conditions, please refer to the following organizations: