4 Facts about Spina Bifida Life Expectancy

Spina bifida (SB) is a congenital disorder that happens to occur during the first month of pregnancy where the child’s neural tube is not completely closed. This is a disabling birth defect which is also known as a split spine. What happens in the womb is that the child’s spinal cord and surrounding tissue like vertebra leave a gap. We do not know the cause yet, but it is said it can be either environmental or genetic effect. This article will cover the life expectancy of Spina Bifida Patients (Adults & Children).

Life Expectancy of Children with Spina Bifida

Children who have less mobility are at the risk of metabolic syndrome such as obesity, insulin resistance and hyperlipidaemia as they cannot perform any physical activity in such conditions. Such situations can lead to increased risk of obesity in their adult age. They can be handled by medication but the effects of exercise programs are more effective.

There is little knowledge about physical activities which are good for the children with this congenital disorder. Life expectancy of patients who are children can be increased with improvements in treatment. Although it has required a lot of struggle to find resources and do research treatments continue to improve the lifestyle and life expectancy of patients and  SB children and they can hope to survive till early adulthood. But, infection or an episode of respiratory arrest can significantly adversely affect the intellectual outcome of children with this condition. They may have a learning disability and need special help.

Life expectancy of Adults with Spina Bifida

The life expectancy of Spina Bifida patients tend to eat less healthy diets, exercise less, and engage more in sedentary activities such as watching television for long hours. They have been reported to be three times more obese than the healthy children. It is recommended that patients with SB exercise regularly while maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.

This person is a certified dietician and gives some great tips on dieting for people with SB.


Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is helpful for those with conditions affecting movements of the body such as SB. CDC recommends 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This will help control their increased waistline, relieve them from depression, avoid hyperlipidaemia and give them a fresh outlook on living. It will also increase the life expectancy of individuals born with Spina bifida. A few examples of activities are:

  • Roll or walk in the neighbourhood
  • Lifting weights
  • Participation in sports (for example, swimming) and teams for people with or without such disabilities

Statistics on SB

1. With increased research and development in the field, 75% of children who were born with an advanced version of this disability can survive early adulthood and can continue to live for many decades. However, they required ongoing supportive care in order to thrive. Generally, medical professionals state that about 90% of patients with SB will live past their third decade of life. However this number has increased over the years because of improvements in medical technology so it has increased the life expectancy of patients born with spina bifida.

2. In 1992, the U.S. Public Health recommended that pregnant women take  400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily to reduce the risk of neural tube defect, such as SB. After this treatment the rate of this disability declined 31%. Oakeshott and colleagues reported that one in three children with SB dies before they reach their fifth birthday. Which is unfortunate for the life expectancy of patients born with Spina Bifida.

In 2008 in England and Wales, it was reported how many children were born with this very condition. The rate was reported 1.3 per 10000 births. However, the rate declined markedly after the policy of folic acid supplementation was introduced. The folic acid supplements also showed reduction in the risk of congenital abnormality; hence the supplements are recommended for the future and if needed then the dose should be increased as well.

Remember, this congenital problem can be mild or severe. Some patients may have disability which is not noticeable and few of them may have prominent problems or disabilities. They may be paralyzed and may not be able to walk, but with the proper care and encouragement their life can be changed and increase the life expectancy of patients with spina bifida.

Finding a productive way to grow leads to a full productive life and improves the life expectancy of patients with spina bifida. Proper care, medication and motivation are very helpful for this purpose. Parents and teachers should take special care of children with such disability because the difficulties they face are not only of a mental and physical nature but they have emotional challenges as well.
Every day of their life is a kind of test. They need all the support that can be given for a normal stable life. Sometimes, patients of Spina Bifida might score below average on tests which tends to place them in a handicapped children facility. So, they should be taught in a special manner that allows them to comprehend and implement the concepts in their real life. We should never lose our hopes, nor should we give up on them, but rather encourage and help them to lead an independent life.

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  1. Spina Bifia: Facts [Internet]. 2013 [last updated 2013 Jan 1; cited 2013 Aug 15]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/spinabifida/facts.html.
  2. Oakeshott P, Hunt GM, Poulton A, Reid F. Expectation of life and unexpected death in open SB: a 40-year complete, non-selective, longitudinal cohort study. Dev Med Child Neurol 2010;52(8):749-53. SB [Internet]. 2012 [last updated 2012 Nov 15; cited 2013 Aug 15]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Spina-bifida/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
  3. What is Spina Bifid? [Internet]. [Cited 2013 Aug 15]. Available from: http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org/site/c.evKRI7OXIoJ8H/b.8277225/k.5A79/What_is_Spina_Bifida.htm.
  4. SB: Topic Overview [Internet]. 2011 [last updated 2011 Mar 21; cited 2013 Aug 15] Available from: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/spina-bifida-topic-overview?page=2.

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