Spina Bifida (cont.)
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Exams and Tests
Tests for spina bifida done before birth
During your second trimester, you can have a blood test called the maternal serum triple or quadruple screen to see whether you have a higher-than-normal chance of having a baby with birth defects. This test is used to screen a fetus for certain abnormalities, including neural tube defects. The most common type of neural tube defect is spina bifida. The triple or quadruple screen test does not pose any risk to the fetus.
If the triple or quadruple screen test shows that you have elevated levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), a neural tube defect in the fetus, such as spina bifida, may be suspected. In this case, the following tests usually are done:
Severe spina bifida is strongly suspected when amniocentesis shows high levels of AFP and ACH and when fetal ultrasound results show severe spinal abnormalities.
An early diagnosis of severe spina bifida allows you to make an informed decision about your pregnancy. If you decide to carry the fetus to term, knowing about the defect can help you and your family prepare for your baby's special needs.
Testing for spina bifida after birth
Children who have mild spina bifida may have no physical symptoms. It is often not found until later in life, when the person has a back X-ray for other reasons. It usually does not cause any problems.
Severe spina bifida is usually obvious at birth, because the baby has a noticeable swelling on the back. Many babies with severe spina bifida, especially those with myelomeningocele, have enlarged heads caused by an excess of spinal fluid in the head (hydrocephalus).
After birth, tests to evaluate the extent of the spinal defect may include:
Babies with severe spina bifida often have problems related to nerve damage of the spinal cord. This nearly always affects the urinary system. Evaluation to determine the extent of this damage may include a renal ultrasound and cystourethrogram.
Nerve damage may also affect the limbs, especially the legs. During your child's physical exams, the doctor will look for limb deformities, such as clubfoot. The doctor will also observe your child's arm and leg movements.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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