Nervous System Home > Effects of Spina Bifida

Some of the effects of spina bifida include learning disabilities, hydrocephalus, and depression. There are many factors that determine the severity of these effects. Some of these factors include the size and location of the malformation, whether skin covers the malformation, and which spinal nerves are involved in the malformation.

An Overview of the Effects of Spina Bifida

The effects of spina bifida can range from minor physical problems to severe physical and mental disabilities. However, it is important to note that most people with spina bifida are of normal intelligence.

Severity of the Effects of Spina Bifida

The severity of these effects is determined by:
  • The size and location of the malformation
  • Whether skin covers the malformation
  • Whether spinal nerves protrude from the malformation
  • Which spinal nerves are involved in the malformation.
In most cases, all of the nerves that are located below the malformation are affected. Therefore, the higher the malformation occurs on the back, the greater the amount of nerve damage and loss of muscle function and sensation there will be.
Other possible effects of spina bifida include:
Effects of Spina Bifida: Chiari II Malformation
In addition to loss of sensation and paralysis, another neurological complication associated with spina bifida is Chiari II malformation. This is a rare condition (but common in children with myelomeningocele) in which the brainstem and the cerebellum, or rear portion of the brain, protrude downward into the spinal canal or neck area. A Chiari II malformation can lead to compression of the spinal cord and can cause a variety of symptoms, which include:
  • Difficulties with feeding
  • Difficulties with swallowing
  • Difficulties with breathing
  • Choking
  • Arm stiffness.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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