Spina Bifida - Treatment Overview
In the first few weeks of life, a baby with severe spina bifida may need
physical therapy or occupational therapy. The therapist will move the arms and legs to help the muscles and joints stay flexible. The therapist will also teach the parents how to do these exercises. The parents will then continue to help their baby do the exercises at
Nerve damage from spina bifida
can lead to foot deformities, such as
clubfoot , and hip deformities. Treatment of clubfoot
may involve using a cast for the first few months of life, and then surgery may
be done. Hip deformities may also be corrected surgically. But doctors
recommend surgery only if it is likely to allow the child to walk.
Leg braces may be needed when the child is old enough to walk. These help
prevent damage to the
joints and help the child walk.
of the spine-scoliosis, kyphosis (hunchback), or both-may be
treated with a brace. But if curvature gets worse as the child grows, it may
need to be corrected surgically.
Bladder problems resulting from
nerve damage can prevent complete emptying of the bladder, which can lead to
kidney damage. If your child has bladder problems, you'll likely be taught how
to insert a urinary
catheter several times a day to ensure your child's
bladder gets completely emptied. This is called clean intermittent
catheterization, or CIC. Your child can insert the catheter when he or she is
Bowel problems are common in children who have severe
spina bifida. Nerve damage can keep the muscles of the digestive tract from
squeezing properly to move contents through the intestines and can also keep
the muscle around the anus from closing tightly. Also, there may not be normal
feeling (sensation) to let the child know when he or she needs to go to the
bathroom or when he or she has had a bowel movement. Parents usually begin
working with the doctor or nurse on managing bowel care as soon as the child
starts eating solid food.
Some children have problems if scar
tissue attaches the spinal cord to other tissues. The scar tissue holds the
lower end of the spinal cord in place so the cord stretches as the child grows.
This is called a tethered spinal cord. It can cause or increase problems with
movement, bladder and bowel control, and pain. Some children will have repeat
surgery to release the scar tissue and free the end of the spinal cord.
Frequent doctor's visits will be needed early on
if your baby has severe spina bifida. Doctors use these visits to make sure
that treatments are working and to see if the child needs more