Spina Bifida Neurological Complications

Learning disabilities often attached to the stigma of spina bifida are often the result of hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, which is a residual effect of the ailment. Many spina bifida patients will continue to present with symptoms even after surgical repair of the defective neural tunnel.

Infants diagnosed with spina bifida often undergo surgery soon after birth to repair the affected area of their spine and a tube is placed in their brain so the excess fluid drains into the stomach. Hydrocephalus affects approximately 90 percent of those with the more severe form of spina bifida, myelomeningocele and it is this accumulation of fluid that can lead to additional neurological problems.

The condition is also blamed for many infants to develop meningitis, which is an infection of brain tissue that can lead to further injury to the brain that can lead to death if not appropriately treated. Children that suffer from myelomeningocele often develop learning disabilities as they grow older and have difficulty with their attention span, reading comprehension and difficulty understanding the concept of math.

Persons with the most severe form of spina bifida have been thought to be mentally retarded but research has shown that their IQ scores can range between 80 and 90, scores that argue against that assessment. Those with less severe forms of spina bifida may have no obvious learning disabilities and without their physical limitations would be difficult to separate from those without the ailment. Persons for whom hydrocephalus is treated early and aggressively can often lead near-normal lives, provided their care continues to remove the excess fluid from the brain. When patients suffer from hydrocephalus the additional pressure on the brain can lead to other neurological problems with the brain. Meningitis has also been known to cause seizures that can present a life-time of problems that may seem to be unrelated to spina bifida. The additional brain pressure can also lead to physical imbalances such as a having less strength on one side of the body that can be affected by both the imbalance in the brain as well as the damage caused by spina bifida.

Unfortunately, those with spina bifida are often cast as being mentally challenged simply due to their physical appearance and condition. Coupled with their neurological issues spina bifida patients are often diagnosed with depression and other mental health problems. However, those with mild residual effects of spina bifida can often function at least as well as those without the ailment.

Very informative video on Spina Bifida and the affects on the developing brain


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