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What Causes It?

The exact cause of myelomeningocele is not known. However, research scientists suspect that genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors may play a role in its development.
(Click Causes of Spina Bifida for more information.)

Symptoms of Myelomeningocele

Infants with myelomeningocele will be born with an open lesion on their spine where significant damage to the nerves and spinal cord has occurred. Although the spinal opening can be surgically repaired shortly after birth, the nerve damage is permanent, resulting in varying degrees of paralysis of the lower limbs. Other symptoms include:
  • Improperly formed or missing vertebrae and accompanying nerve damage
  • Physical and mobility difficulties
  • Learning disabilities.
(Click Symptoms of Spina Bifida for more information.)

How Is It Diagnosed?

In most cases, a myelomeningocele diagnosis is made before birth. Tests that are used to make the diagnosis include:
  • Second-trimester maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein screening
  • Fetal ultrasound
  • Multiple-marker screens
  • Amniocentesis.
(Click Spina Bifida Diagnosis for more information about these tests.)
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Spina Bifida Information

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