Meningocele: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

It is a type of spina bifida that involves a sac of fluid outside an opening in the baby’s back.

Meningocele is considered a neural tube defect and is a form of spina bifida. It is the least common type of spina bifida .

Spina bifida occurs during pre-birth development. It is when the spinal cord , brain, or meninges (its protective covering) do not fully develop. It can be anywhere along the spine and can usually be seen in an opening in the baby’s back at birth.

The meningocele does not contain any part of the spinal cord. Because there is not much damage to the nerves, the meningocele causes only minor disabilities.

Meningocele symptoms

Symptoms of the meningocele type of spina bifida include:

  • Small opening at the back.
  • Sack that is visible at birth.
  • Membranes pushing through the opening in the sac vertebrae.
  • Abnormal development of the spinal cord.

The membranes can be surgically removed in cases of meningocele.


The exact causes of spina bifida are not specifically known. However, it involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

A child born with spina bifida may not have any relatives with the condition, even though genetics play a role. A lack of folic acid, also known as vitamin B-9, is also believed to play a role in spina bifida.

Other factors believed to play a role include:

  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes in the mother that is not well controlled.
  • Some medications

Diagnosis of meningocele

The meningocele is usually diagnosed before birth. A doctor can make the diagnosis through:

  • Ultrasound.
  • Amniocentesis.
  • Alpha-fetoprotein tests in the second trimester.
  • Multiple marking selection tests.

Blood tests and amniocentesis can indicate a neural tube defect. The meningocele can be visible with an ultrasound.


Treatment for spina bifida will be different for each person because symptoms and severity can vary. In some cases, especially spina bifida occulta, no treatment may be needed.

Meningocele requires surgery to put the sac and exposed nerves back in place. Some of them may also require removal.

The surgeon will then close the opening over the vertebrae. There may be a short in place to avoid complications later in life. This surgery can be done shortly after the baby is born.

In some cases, prenatal surgery can be done while the baby is still in the womb. You should discuss the benefits and risks of both types of surgery with your doctor. Even after the surgery is done, some symptoms and disability may remain. They should be administered according to the severity of each symptom.

Paralysis and bowel and bladder problems generally persist for a lifetime. Treatment for the remaining symptoms may include:

  • Additional surgeries.
  • Medicines.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Rehabilitation services.
  • Help to walk.

Meningocele prevention

Spina bifida occurs very early in pregnancy. Most women don’t even know they are pregnant when it happens. Therefore, if you are trying to get pregnant, you should start taking preventive measures against spina bifida. Follow these preventive steps:

  • Take a folic acid supplement as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Include green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and other foods that contain folic acid in your diet.
  • Discuss any medications or supplements you take with your doctor.
  • If you have diabetes, make sure it is under control before pregnancy.
  • If you are overweight, you should talk to your doctor about a healthy diet and exercise plan.
  • Prevent your body from overheating in saunas, hot tubs, or fever.