Spina Bifida - Description

The rate of spina bifida differs considerably among various populations. It occurs in about 1 of every 700 births among whites in North America. Among African-Americans, the rate is about 1 in every 3,000 births. In some parts of Great Britain, the rate may be as high as 1 in every 100 births.

Spina bifida occurs when the spine of a fetus does not close properly. Some portion of the spinal column may protrude (stick out) from the newborn baby's back. The protrusion may form a sac that includes some part of the spine. The spinal material present in the sac can vary considerably. In some cases, it consists of the membranes that cover the spinal cord. In other cases, part of the spinal cord itself is present in the sac. In the most extreme cases, the entire spine may be exposed.

The severity of spina bifida depends on a number of factors. These factors include which part of the spine has failed to close, how badly the spine is distorted, and what other medical problems the baby may have.

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