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Spina Bifida - Treatment Overview

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A baby with severe spina bifida may need ongoing physical therapy to keep joints and muscles flexible and to help strengthen the muscles by exercising the arms and legs. You will be able to help your baby do many of these exercises at home.

Complications linked with spina bifida include:

  • Skin infections if sensation to injury is diminished. Prevent infections by daily examining your child's skin.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) because it is hard to empty the bladder. Clean intermittent catheterization (CIC) may be needed to keep the bladder emptied. In some cases, the doctor will suggest surgery to help treat or prevent urinary tract or kidney problems. Your child's doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to help prevent UTIs or medicines to help with bladder control.
  • Constipation because of nerve injury affecting the bowel. Be certain your child drinks enough water. Your doctor may recommend that your child also take stool softeners.
  • Latex allergy, which is common in children who have spina bifida. Latex is a natural rubber product that is used to make objects such as toys and health care supplies. Do not allow your child to come into contact with items that contain latex.
  • Problems with the shunt that may be used to drain excess fluid from the head.

Treatment if the condition gets worse

Other problems can occur with severe spina bifida and may get worse as the child grows:

  • Severe curvature of the spine-scoliosis or kyphosis (hunchback)-may need to be corrected with surgery.
  • Depending on the location of the nerve damage, walking may become increasingly difficult, and the child may eventually require a wheelchair for mobility.

Sometimes spina bifida causes people to have an abnormal walking pattern (gait). It can lead to arthritis of the hips or knees, and treatment may be needed. For more information, see the topic Osteoarthritis.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 21, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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