Spina Bifida

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Spina bifida is a congenital birth defect that affects thousands of individuals in India. This article aims to shed light on spina bifida in the context of India, discussing its signs and symptoms, classification, causes, risk factors, types, diagnostic tests, treatments, complications, prevention techniques, and notable public figures in India affected by this condition.

Understanding Spina Bifida:

Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that occurs during the early stages of fetal development. It happens when the neural tube, which forms the baby’s brain and spinal cord, does not close properly. As a result, the spinal column remains incompletely formed, leading to various neurological and physical complications.

Signs and Symptoms:

The signs and symptoms of spina bifida can vary depending on the severity and location of the spinal defect. Common indications include:

1. Visible Spinal Malformation: A visible sac or cyst-like structure may be present on the baby’s back, usually covered by a thin layer of skin.

2. Motor and Sensory Impairments: Weakness or paralysis in the lower limbs, abnormal gait, and sensory deficits in the affected areas may be observed.

3. Bowel and Bladder Dysfunction: Problems with urinary or bowel control, including urinary incontinence or difficulty emptying the bladder, are common.

4. Hydrocephalus: Spina bifida can lead to the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, resulting in an enlarged head, developmental delays, and cognitive impairments.

5. Latex Allergies: Individuals with spina bifida may have an increased risk of latex allergies due to frequent medical interventions.


Classification of Spina Bifida:

Spina bifida is classified into three main types:

1. Spina Bifida Occulta: This is the mildest form, where the spinal cord and nerves remain undamaged and there is no visible opening or sac on the back. It may go unnoticed in some cases.

2. Meningocele: In this form, a sac-like protrusion containing the protective covering of the spinal cord (meninges) pushes through the opening in the spine. The spinal cord and nerves usually develop normally.

3. Myelomeningocele: This is the most severe and common form of spina bifida. It occurs when the sac-like protrusion contains not only the meninges but also a portion of the spinal cord or nerves. It often leads to significant physical and neurological impairments.


Causes and Triggers:

The exact causes of spina bifida are not yet fully understood. However, several factors are believed to contribute to its development, including:

1. Genetic Factors: Spina bifida can run in families, indicating a genetic predisposition.

2. Folic Acid Deficiency: Insufficient intake of folic acid before and during early pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of spina bifida. Supplementation with folic acid is crucial for women of childbearing age to reduce the risk.

3. Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain chemicals, medications, and toxins during pregnancy may elevate the risk of spina bifida.


Risk Factors and Examples:

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of spina bifida. Examples of risk factors in India include:

1. Lack of Folic Acid Supplementation: Inadequate intake of folic acid before and during pregnancy significantly increases the risk.

2. Family History: Individuals with a family history of spina bifida or neural tube defects are at higher risk.

3. Maternal Obesity: Maternal obesity has been associated with an increased risk of spina bifida.

4. Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes during pregnancy can raise the risk of spina bifida.

5. Medications: Certain medications, such as some anti-seizure medications, if taken during pregnancy, can increase the risk.


Types of Spina Bifida:

a) Spina Bifida Occulta: In this type, there is a small gap in one or more of the vertebrae, but the spinal cord and nerves are not affected.

b) Meningocele: A sac-like protrusion containing the meninges pushes through the spinal opening, but the spinal cord remains intact.

c) Myelomeningocele: The most severe form, where the sac-like protrusion contains both the meninges and a portion of the spinal cord or nerves.


Diagnostic Tests and Treatments:

Diagnosis and treatment of spina bifida involve various tests and procedures. Some commonly used diagnostic tests include:

1. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) Test: This blood test screens for elevated levels of AFP, a protein produced by the developing baby. High AFP levels may indicate the presence of a neural tube defect, including spina bifida.

2. Fetal Ultrasound: Ultrasound imaging during pregnancy can detect physical abnormalities in the developing baby’s spine, providing early indications of spina bifida.

Treatment options for spina bifida vary depending on the severity and type. These may include:

1. Surgery: In cases of myelomeningocele, surgical repair is typically performed shortly after birth to close the opening in the spinal column and prevent infection.

2. Supportive Care: Individuals with spina bifida may require ongoing medical management, including physical therapy, assistive devices, and treatment for associated complications such as hydrocephalus or bladder dysfunction.


Complications and Prevention Techniques:

Spina bifida can lead to various complications, including physical disabilities, bowel and bladder problems, learning difficulties, and hydrocephalus. To prevent spina bifida:

1. Folic Acid Supplementation: Women of childbearing age should take folic acid supplements regularly, ideally starting before conception and continuing through the early stages of pregnancy.

2. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, can help reduce the risk.

Spina bifida is a complex condition that requires specialized care and management. Marengo Asia Hospitals, a prominent healthcare system across India, is dedicated to providing comprehensive support and treatment for patients with spina bifida. In this article, we will delve into how Marengo Asia Hospitals handles patients with spina bifida, focusing on their approach to care, multidisciplinary teams, specialized services, patient education, and continuous support.


A Multidimensional Approach to Patient Care:
Marengo Asia Hospitals adopts a multidimensional approach to ensure the best possible care for patients with spina bifida. This approach involves various elements to provide comprehensive and individualized support.

1. Multidisciplinary Teams: The hospitals within Marengo Asia Hospitalshave specialized multidisciplinary teams consisting of pediatric neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, pediatricians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and other healthcare professionals. This collaboration allows for comprehensive evaluation, personalized treatment plans, and ongoing care management.

2. Specialized Pediatric Services: The network offers dedicated pediatric departments equipped with advanced facilities and state-of-the-art technologies. These departments focus on the unique needs of children with spina bifida, providing a child-friendly environment and ensuring their comfort during consultations, treatments, and follow-up care.

3. Holistic Treatment Plans: Each patient with spina bifida receives an individualized treatment plan tailored to their specific needs. The multidisciplinary team assesses the severity and type of spina bifida, associated complications, and the child’s overall development to devise an integrated approach that may include surgeries, therapies, assistive devices, and ongoing monitoring.

4. Rehabilitation Services: Marengo Asia Hospitals offers specialized rehabilitation services for patients with spina bifida. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are vital components of the rehabilitation program, aimed at maximizing functional abilities, promoting independence, and enhancing the quality of life for patients.


Patient Education and Support:
Marengo Asia Hospitals recognizes the importance of patient education and support in empowering patients and their families to manage spina bifida effectively.

1. Patient and Family Counseling: The hospitals provide counseling services to patients and their families, offering emotional support and guidance throughout their journey. These sessions address concerns, provide coping strategies, and educate families about spina bifida, its management, and available resources.

2. Educational Materials and Workshops: The network organizes educational workshops, seminars, and distributes informational materials to raise awareness about spina bifida. These initiatives aim to enhance understanding, facilitate early intervention, and encourage proactive involvement in managing the condition.

3. Support Groups: Marengo Asia Hospitals facilitates support groups where patients and families affected by spina bifida can connect, share experiences, and provide mutual support. These groups offer a platform for exchanging information, accessing community resources, and fostering a sense of belonging.


Continuous Care and Monitoring:
Marengo Asia Hospitals is committed to providing ongoing care and monitoring to patients with spina bifida, ensuring their long-term well-being.

1. Regular Follow-up Visits: The hospitals schedule regular follow-up visits for patients with spina bifida to monitor their progress, assess treatment effectiveness, and address any emerging concerns. These visits allow for ongoing evaluation, adjustment of treatment plans, and timely intervention when necessary.

2. Adaptive Devices and Orthopedic Support: The network collaborates with orthopedic specialists to provide customized orthotic devices, braces, wheelchairs, and other assistive devices to optimize mobility, independence, and functional abilities of patients with spina bifida.

3. Parental Guidance and Training: Recognizing the essential role of parents in managing spina bifida, Marengo Asia Hospitals offers parental guidance and training sessions. These sessions equip parents with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide home-based care, implement therapeutic exercises, and promote overall well-being for their child.


Marengo Asia Hospitals across India has established itself as a pioneer in the management of spina bifida. With its multidisciplinary approach, specialized surgical interventions, comprehensive rehabilitation programs, and emphasis on emotional support, the network ensures that patients with spina bifida receive exceptional care at every stage of their treatment. By combining expertise, state-of-the-art facilities, and a patient-centric approach, Marengo Asia Hospitals are transforming the lives of individuals with spina bifida, empowering them to live fulfilling and independent lives.


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Marengo CIMS Hospital
Off Science City Road, Sola, Ahmedabad – 380060
Gujarat, INDIA

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Phone: 079 4805 1200 or 1008
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