Spina Bifida (cont.)
Mark R Foster, MD, PhD
William O Shaffer, MD
IN THIS ARTICLE
Surgery is the most common treatment for spina bifida and its complications. Most children with severe spina bifida require a series of operations.
Urologic surgery is often necessary, because unresisted contracture limits the ability of the bladder to hold enough urine to space out emptying and may obstruct flow from the kidneys. Untreated, this can lead to kidney failure, which can cause premature death.
In the 1990s, pioneering surgeons developed a technique for repairing the spinal cord while the fetus is still in the womb. The reasoning behind this is that the longer the spinal cord is exposed to outside elements, even in the womb, the greater the possibility for damage to the cord and nerve roots. Thus, earlier surgery could prevent some of the damage that has already occurred by the time the baby is born.
Hydrocephalus usually is treated by placement of a shunt. A shunt is a special tube surgically placed in the head and under the skin down into the chest or abdomen. The shunt drains excess fluid from the brain into the abdomen, where it can be eliminated without harm.
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