Spina Bifida (Myelomeningocele)
Spina Bifida is one of the most common birth defects in the world. According to N. Scott Adzick, MD, and other members of CHOP's Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment team, it occurs when the spinal cord does not properly close before birth. That means that the spinal cord is exposed to amniotic fluid during fetal life. Amniotic fluid is the watery fluid within the innermost membrane that encloses the embryo and surrounds the fetus throughout pregnancy. Amniotic fluid is also what cushions the fetus protecting it from injury, providing freedom of fetal movements, helping maintain the fetal oxygen supply and helping stabilize temperature. The composition of the fluid changes over the course of gestation. Initially, amniotic fluid is similar to maternal plasma. In addition to providing the fetus with physical protection, as the fetus develops, phospholipids originating from the lungs, fetal cells, and urine are deposited in this fluid. Amniotic fluid itself is clear. Diana Farmer, MD, Division Chief of UCSF Pediatric Surgery and Professor of Clinical Surgery for the UCSF Fetal Treatment Center says “We know that exposure to amniotic fluid can cause further damage to the spinal cord. So our goal is to try to treat these fetuses before birth so that we can improve the outcome for babies with Spina Bifida.”
Spina bifida is the most common debilitating birth defect in the United States, affecting more than 3,000 families each year. Myelomeningocele is a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. The condition is a type of Spina bifida. Normally, during the first month of a pregnancy, the two sides of the spine (or backbone) join together to cover the spinal cord, spinal nerves and meninges (the tissues covering the spinal cord). Spina bifida refers to any birth defect involving incomplete closure of the spine. Myelomeningocele is the most common type of Spina Bifida. It is a neural tube...
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