Neural Tube Defects

What are Neural Tube Defects?

Neural tube defects are serious birth defects which involve incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord and/or the protective coverings of the organs. There are three types of NTDs — anencephaly, encephalocele, and spina bifida.

Anencephaly: Babies born with this birth defect have underdeveloped brains and incomplete skulls. Most infants born with anencephaly do not survive more than a few hours after birth.

Encephalocele: A birth defect that results in a hole in the skull through which tissue protrudes. Although most babies with encephalocele do not live or are severely retarded, a few children have survived because of early
surgery to correct this defect.

Spina bifida: A birth defect of the spinal column (backbone) that is sometimes called “cleft or open spine”. Spina bifida can range from a mild defect that causes no problems to a serious condition involving muscle paralysis, loss of feeling, infection and loss of bowel and bladder control. 70-90% of children born with the more severe types of spina bifida will also have hydrocephalus, a build up of fluid in the brain. Hydrocephalus is controlled by surgically implanting a drain or “shunt” to relieve the fluid pressure on the brain.

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