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Learn about Spina Bifida

What is Spina bifida?

Spina bifida (SB) is a cleft, or an incomplete closure, of the spinal column. This neural tube defect is caused by the failure of the spine to close during the first month of pregnancy. A neural tube defect involves incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and/or their protective coverings (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke [NINDS], 2006).

The lesion can be surgically closed after birth. However, from the point of the lesion down, significant nerve damage has occurred, and some degree of lower extremity paralysis may be present as well as bladder and/or bowel problems. Because of the nerve involvement, individuals with SB use various methods to get around (canes, walkers, wheelchairs). For this reason, SB is included in the orthopedic impairments section of this site.