Type of Surgery
Last updated: 02/17/2009
If an individual has spina bifida occulta, with no outward signs of a neural tube defect and no symptoms, the condition may go undetected. The protruding sacs associated with meningocele and myelomeningocele are quite noticeable at birth. To understand...
the extent of the defect x rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine may be taken.
Spina bifida may be diagnosed while the mother is still pregnant, through prenatal screening. If spina bifida is indicated, a blood test will show an elevated alpha fetoprotein. However, elevated levels can be present without spina bifida, so further testing should be done if the test is positive. There is an elevated alpha fetoprotein level in about 85% of women with a fetus with spina bifida. An ultrasound can reliable reveal the spinal structure of the fetus. An amniocentesis may be done to check for chromosomal abnormalities. In amniocentesis, a long syringe is used to draw amniotic fluid out from the uterus through the mother's abdomen. Because the protruding sac of the meningocele and myelomeningocele can look the same on the outside, it is important to have a clear diagnosis, as the anticipated outcome of the two conditions is very different.
Meningocele repair is surgery to repair birth defects of the spine and spinal membranes. . For both meningoceles and myelomeningoceles, surgery consists of putting the spinal cord or nerve roots in their normal place and protecting them by closing the overlying meninges and skin.
A myelomeningocele should be closed within 24 hours of birth to prevent infection. A shunt is usually required to drain excess fluid. If the baby has fluid build-up in the brain, a shunt is usually put in when the myelomeningocele is repaired. Otherwise, most neurosurgeons wait about 3 days to place a shunt.
If hydrocephalus is present at birth and already causing problems, then the myelomeningocele repair and shunt are done at the same time.
After surgery, antibiotics are usually given to prevent infection.
The total number of neurosurgeries performed in 2006 was estimated at 2,171,195. Of these, 1,345,167 spine-related were performed, equating to nearly 62 percent of the total.
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