Spina bifida, a condition where the spine fails to form properly and leaves the nerves of the spinal column exposed, is sometimes found in infants. Parents in Washington should know that the condition can be mild or serious depending on the type. There are three types: spina bifida occulta, meningocele and myelomeningocele.
Spina bifida occulta is the most common as well as the mildest. About 40 percent of those with the condition never know they have it. Possible symptoms include a dimple, birthmark or hairy patch on the back, usually in the affected area.
Meningocele refers to the protrusion of the meninges, or the protective covering around the spinal cord, through the hole in the spine. In myelomeningocele, parts of the spinal column protrude through the back, often appearing as a flesh-covered sac. It is frequently accompanied by hydrocephalus, an enlargement of the baby’s head due to a cerebrospinal fluid buildup. Severe symptoms can include paralysis, weakness or numbness in the affected limbs.
The effect of spina bifida can be long-term. The child may experience orthopedic problems, cognitive disabilities and learning disabilities. In particular, the child may have trouble concentrating, using language or doing math. The condition can be treated through the intervention of physicians to protect the nerves and nutritional specialists to stimulate bone growth, but the process is long and painful.
There is little that a doctor can do about spina bifida once it appears except monitor it. However, the risk for developing it can be reduced by 70% if the mother takes folic acid while pregnant. If doctor negligence is behind the appearance or the worsening of the condition, the parents may be able to file a claim under birth injury law although it might take legal counsel for the claim to succeed. The lawyer may handle all negotiations.