Spina bifida

Spina bifida is a disorder which affects the spine. It results from a malformation of the spine pre-birth.

There are three main forms of spina bifida:

  1. Myelomeningocele
    Myelomeningocele is the most severe form of spina bifida. This results in the spinal cord, along with the protective tissue, protruding from the middle of the spine. This requires corrective surgery but typically results in serious damage to the nervous system.
  2. Meningocele
    Meningocele is where the protective tissue only, not the cord itself, protrudes from the centre of the spine. This is normally corrected by surgery and does not normally affect the nervous system. Common complications can be bowel and bladder problems.
  3. Spina bifida occulta
    Spina bifida occulta is the most common form of spina bifida. It is also the most mild. It is where there is a gap in the spine itself, but the gap has been covered by skin meaning that the cord and protective tissue remains in place. This is typically symptomless although there is often reduced sensation in the legs and bowel and bladder difficulties can occur.

The symptoms and impact of spina bifida vary significantly according to which type a child has. In the more severe cases a child may be paralysed, have learning difficulties, develop hydrocephalus and may require braces or crutches.

In many cases, spina bifida will result in special educational needs (SEN). In our experience it is very important for a child with spina bifida to have their needs accurately assessed and fully understood. Naturally, the focus of support is often upon physical adjustments and therapies, however, children with spina bifida may need differentiation in how education is delivered.


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