Difference on Meningocele vs Myelomeningocele Spina Bifida

(Article Updated 5/27/2022)

This page contains the most popular questions people have about the two types of Spina Bifida, Meningocele and Myelomeningocele. On this page, you can find the answers to the most popular questions, such as the differences between Meningocele and myelomeningocele.

Meningocele and myelomeningocele are two types of visible spina bifida signs caused when the patient’s spine and spinal cord are not formed properly. Though meningocele and myelomeningocele are not as common as occulta (another type of spina bifida), meningocele is still considered the most severe type while myelomeningocele is characterized as a rare type of spina bifida. [1]

What is the difference between Myelomeningocele and Meningocele?

The difference between Myelomeningocele and Meningocele is that in the case of myelomeningocele, part of the spinal cord and nerves form outside the body and are contained in a fluid-filled sac located on the spine while the meningocele birth defect does not involve the spinal cord or nerves in a fluid-filled sac. [13]

What is Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele?

Known as the most severe type of spina bifida, myelomeningocele is also widely recognized as open spina bifida. Myelomeningocele is diagnosed when the patient’s spinal canal is under-developed and protrudes at the back, either in the lower or middle back. Due to this birth defect condition, a visible sac containing blood vessels and cerebrospinal fluid is formed on the patient’s back leaving the tissues and nerves dangerously exposed. [2]

This type of spina bifida typically happens at birth and has reportedly affected 18 out of every 100,000 live births in the United States. Patients with myelomeningocele are at risk of contracting life-threatening infections and may also suffer from paralysis and loss of sensation.

Most people with myelomeningocele suffer from bladder and bowel dysfunction as the nerves controlling these bodily functions come from the bottom of the spinal cord and are located just below the lesion.

When is Myelomeningocele diagnosed?

Myelomeningocele is typically diagnosed before or right after the patient’s birth. Infants with this birth defect should be assisted and supported by a specialized team of healthcare professionals throughout their lives.

What is Spina Bifida Meningocele?

Meningocele is a rare type of spina bifida characterized by a bulging sac of spinal fluid in the back or in the spine. As the least common type of birth defect, meningocele does not affect the patient’s neurological system since no nerves are directly affected. [4]

Patients with meningocele might have some minor problems surrounding their bladder and bowel functions. [5]

When is Meningocele diagnosed?

Meningocele is diagnosed before or right after the patient’s birth. Babies with this birth defect can undergo surgical repair to remove the meningocele but even after surgery, some complications can persist. [6]

How common are Myelomeningocele and Meningocele?

In general, spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect in the U.S. It has been reported that out of 4 million births in the USA, around 2,000 babies are born with this birth defect every year. [7]

What is the difference in location between meningocele and myelomeningocele?

The difference in location between meningocele and myelomeningocele is that a patient with either meningocele or myelomeningocele has a visible fluid-filled sac on the mid to lower back of the spine. Meningocele is located on the patient’s back and other areas of the spine, like the neck or the head.

Most of the myelomeningocele birth defect is found in the lumbosacral region. If myelomeningocele is located higher on the patient’s spine, the complications will be more severe. [8]

How are meningocele and myelomeningocele classified differently? 

Meningocele and Myelomeningocele are classified differently as the two types of spina bifida. While meningocele is the least common type of spina bifida, this birth defect is considered dangerous as it can be repaired through surgery. Patients with meningocele do not suffer from nerve damage and have no neurological problems resulting from this birth defect.

Myelomeningocele is considered to be the most severe form of spina bifida affecting nearly one of every 1,000 live births. Patients with myelomeningocele experience paralysis or even weakness below the site of this birth defect. The presence of myelomeningocele can cause the lower limbs to be affected and can also cause issues to the bladder and bowel functions. [9]

What are the visual differences between meningocele and myelomeningocele?

The visual differences between meningocele and myelomeningocele are based on their location on the patient’s spine and on the type of fluid-filled sac a patient with spina bifida has.

Myelomeningocele is commonly located in the lumbosacral region and can also be in the cervical or thoracic regions of the patient’s vertebral column and cord. This birth defect is in the form of a fluid-filled sac that contains part of the patient’s spinal cord and its protective covering.

Meningocele occurs in the lumbosacral region of the patient’s vertebral arches. This birth defect is most often covered with skin and it rarely involves more than three vertebrae. [10]

What is the difference between the diagnosis of meningocele and myelomeningocele?

The difference between the diagnosis of meningocele and myelomeningocele is through a series of tests that pregnant women have to go through for their growing babies, such as blood tests, prenatal ultrasound, and amniocentesis.

Spine Bifida, in general, can be detected during a woman’s mid-pregnancy anomaly scan. The test, which is offered to all pregnant women between 18 to 21 weeks of pregnancy, is able to detect if the baby has spina bifida.

After birth, babies with meningocele or myelomeningocele will undergo different types of tests to find out how bad the condition of spina bifida is so doctors can provide the best treatment options to treat this birth defect. [11]

What is the difference in the treatment of meningocele and myelomeningocele?

The difference in the treatment of meningocele and myelomeningocele depends on the severity or on the condition of this type of birth defect. The mildest case may not require immediate treatment while for moderate cases, surgery might be advisable.

For patients with meningocele, if the sac breaks or is about to break, immediate surgery is advisable to prevent further damage. Surgery may prevent worsening the condition of people with myelomeningocele but it cannot restore the lost function.

Depending on their spina bifida condition, patients with meningocele or myelomeningocele may be prescribed braces, corrective shoes, crutches, or other supportive devices. [12]

What are the similarities between meningocele and myelomeningocele?

The similarities between meningocele and myelomeningocele are that both conditions are known as open neural tube defects and open spina bifida. Both meningocele and myelomeningocele birth defects are either not covered at all or just covered by a membrane.

Which infants are at risk to get affected by Myelomeningocele and Meningocele?

If a family’s firstborn is affected by any type of spina bifida, the risk of being affected further increases to 2 to 3% for the second child and 10% for the third child.

What causes Myelomeningocele and Meningocele?

Myelomeningocele or Meningocele might be caused by a combination of genetics, nutritional and environmental risk factors, including an existing family history of neural tube defects and folate deficiency. [3]

These are the most popular questions on Meningocele vs Myelomeningocele that have been asked in recent times. If there’s something that you had like to ask regarding Meningocele vs Myelomeningocele, do not hesitate to drop us a message. If there’s something you would like to ask about this content, please let us know.

New References

  1. Spina bifida fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Spina-Bifida-Fact-Sheet. Accessed Aug. 28, 2019.
  2. Types of spina bifida . Shine. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.shinecharity.org.uk/spina-bifida/types-of-spina-bifida
  3. Spina bifida. AANS. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Spina-Bifida
  4. What is the Difference Between Meningocele and Meningomyelocele | Compare the Difference Between Similar Terms. (2022). Retrieved 22 May 2022, from https://www.differencebetween.com/what-is-the-difference-between-meningocele-and-meningomyelocele/Dr.Samanthi. (2021, December 22).
  5. What is the difference between meningocele and meningomyelocele. Compare the Difference Between Similar Terms. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.differencebetween.com/what-is-the-difference-between-meningocele-and-meningomyelocele/ MediLexicon International. (n.d.).
  6. Meningocele: Repair, recovery, and more. Medical News Today. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/meningocele#complications-and-risks
  7. Spina bifida. NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders). (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/spina-bifida/ The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (2014, March 31).
  8. Spina bifida causes, symptoms and treatment. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/spina-bifida
  9. Spina bifida: Types, tests, Treatment & Prevention. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8719-spina-bifida
  10. Meningocele. Meningocele – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/meningocele NHS. (n.d.).
  11. Spina bifida. NHS choices. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/spina-bifida/
  12. Spina bifida. NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders). (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/spina-bifida/
  13. Stanford Children’s Health – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=spina-bifida-in-children-90-P02415

Medical References for original article

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  3. Myelomeningocele [Internet]. [Last updated 15 Mar 2004; Cited on 30 Oct 2013]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002525/.
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  8. Shallow TA. SPINA BIFIDA AND CRANIAL MENINGOCELE. Ann Surg 1928; 87(6): 811–822
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