Spina Bifida: An Overview

Spina bifida is physical disability in which the bone in the spinal column is misplaced or malformed and exposes the spinal cord. The term “spina bifida” has roots in the Latin words “spina” meaning “spine”, and “bifida” meaning “split”. Spina Bifida can occur in different forms (mentioned in more detail down below): spina bifida occulta, meningocele (muh-NING-go-seel), or myelomeningocele (my-uh-lo-muh-NING-go-seel). The severity of spina bifida depends on the complication, type, size, and location.

Spina Bifida Center
via Wikimedia Commons

Causes of Spina Bifida

Doctors are not certain as to what causes spina bifida. However, as with many other problems, research has shown that it appears to be a result of a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. Those factors include family history of neural tube defects and folate deficiency.

During the first month of conception, the embryo grows a developing tissue structure known as the neural tube. Gradually, the neural tube develops into bones, nerves, and muscle which eventually form the nervous system and spinal column.

When the neural tube is still forming, it grows and wraps around to form the spinal column. If the neural tube of the unborn baby does not close fully, this causes problems in the spinal column. When the tissue fails to close completely, development of the spine, muscle and skin in this region is affected and the baby will be born with spina bifida.


 Signs and symptoms of spina bifida vary by type and severity. Symptoms can also differ for each person. They include:

  • Tuft of hair above the spinal defect
  • Fat collection above the spinal defect
  • Birthmark or indentation above the spinal defect
  • Leg muscle stiffness or weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Incontinence issues
  • Seizures
  • Deformed feet
  • Unleveled hip placement
  • Curved spine

Different Types of Spina Bifida

Occult Spinal Dysraphism (OSD)

Infants with OSD have a dimple in their lower back. Because most babies with dimples do not have OSD, a doctor checks using special tools and tests to be sure. Other signs are red marks, hyperpigmented patches on the back, tufts of hair or small lumps. In OSD, the spinal cord may not grow the right way and can cause serious problems as a child grows up.


A bump or lump of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord through a defect in the skull or spinal column. Nerve fluid is in the sac, but there is typically no nerve damage. Individuals with this condition can have minor disabilities.

Spina Bifida Occulta

It is called “hidden Spina Bifida” because around 15 % of healthy people have it and do not know. Spina Bifida Occulta usually does not cause harm, and has no visible signs. The spinal cord and nerves are typically fine. People find out they have Spina Bifida after having an X-ray done of their back for other reasons. However, in a small group of people with SBO, pain and neurological symptoms may occur. Tethered cord can be a serious complication that requires investigation by a neurosurgeon.

Yelomeningocele (Meningomyelocele)/Spina Bifida Cystica

This is the most serious form of Spina Bifida. It happens when part of the spinal cord and nerves come through the open part of the spine. It causes nerve damage and other disabilities. 70 to 90% of children with this condition also have too much fluid on their brains. This happens because fluid in the brain and spinal cord is unable to drain like it should. The fluid builds up, causing pressure and swelling. Without treatment, a person’s head grows too big, and may cause brain damage.

Services We Offer at Our Spina Bifida Center

 We at Achievement Center of Texas understand the trials of having Spina bifida. The good news is that our services and trained staff members are all equipped to assist  those with Spina bifida.

  • Walking and mobility aids: Some babies may start exercises to prepare their legs for walking with braces or crutches when they are older. Certain children may need walkers or a wheelchair. Mobility aids, along with regular physical therapy, can help a child become independent.
  • Management of other complications: To help with functioning, special equipment such as bath chairs, commode chairs, and standing frames may be needed. Whether the issues are orthopedic complications, spinal cord complications or skin problems, most spina bifida complications can be managed to improve a person’s quality of life.

Aside from us at the Spina Bifida Center, parents and other caregivers are an essential part of the child's team. Learning how to help manage their child's condition and how to encourage and support their child emotionally and socially will help the child in the long run. Children with spina bifida can go on to college, hold jobs, and have families. Special accommodations may help along the way, but encouraging the child to be as independent as possible would be the best treatment.

Enroll Now in Classes at Our Spina Bifida Center

Achievement Center of Texas has many students with Spina Bifida, and we have plenty of space to accommodate all of your individual needs and goals. Click the button below to begin the enrollment process.

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If you're not ready to enroll your child of yourself into our Spina Bifida Center, please donate so that we can continue offering the best services to individual student. We want to cater to everyone's unique goals and aspirations. This is only made possible through donations from people like you who care. Please click the button below to begin the donation process.