Myelomeningocele: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis Treatment and Prevention

It is a congenital disability in which the spinal column and the spinal canal do not close before birth.

Myelomeningocele is a type of spina bifida. It occurs during the development prior to birth. It is when the spinal cord, the brain, or the meninges (their protective cover) do not develop ultimately.

It is the most common and severe type of spina bifida. It involves a sac out of the opening in the baby’s back somewhere in the spine. This sac contains parts of the spinal cord and nerves. The spinal cord and nerves in the sac will be damaged.

People with myelomeningocele have physical disabilities that range from moderate to severe. These disabilities may include:

  • Incontinent .
  • Difficulty going to the bathroom.
  • Inability to move or feel your legs or feet.


Symptoms of myelomeningocele include:

  • Opening of the spinal canal over some vertebrae, usually in the middle or lower part of the back.
  • Membranes and spinal cord are pushed out of the back in an exposed bag or covered with skin.
  • Muscles of weak or paralyzed legs.
  • Convulsions
  • Deformed feet.
  • Absence of hips.
  • Scoliosis.
  • Problems with the bowel and bladder.


The exact causes are not explicitly known. However, it implies a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

A child born with myelomeningocele may not have any relatives with the condition, although genetics plays an important role.


The lack of folic acid, also known as vitamin B-9, before and during pregnancy may affect the development of the spinal cord.

Other factors that are believed to play a role include:

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

How is meningomyelocele diagnosed?

This condition is usually diagnosed during the second trimester of pregnancy when women can have a blood test.

The test can detect various conditions, including meningomyelocele, Down syndrome, and other congenital diseases of the baby. Most women with a baby with neural tube defects have high levels of maternal alpha-fetoprotein (AFP).

If the screening test is positive, more tests such as a pregnancy ultrasound or amniocentesis can confirm the diagnosis.


The treatment for spina bifida will differ for each person because the symptoms and severity may vary.

Myelomeningocele requires surgery to replace the sac and exposed nerves in place. Some of them may also require their removal. The surgeon will then close the opening over the vertebrae. There may be a short place to avoid complications later in life.

This surgery can be done soon after the birth of the child. In some cases, prenatal surgery can be done while the baby is still in the womb. You should talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of both types of surgery.

Even after the surgery is performed, some symptoms and disabilities may remain. They should be administered according to the severity of each symptom. Paralysis and bowel and bladder problems usually remain throughout life. Treatment for the remaining symptoms may include:

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


It is believed that spina bifida and other neural tube defects are related to low levels of folic acid. It is important to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy.

Myelomeningocele occurs very early in pregnancy. Most women do not even know they are pregnant when it happens. Therefore, if you try to get pregnant, you should take preventive measures against spina bifida.

Follow these preventive steps:

  • Take a folic acid supplement as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Include leafy greens, nuts, beans, and other foods that contain folic acid in your diet.
  • Discuss any medication or supplement you take with your doctor.
  • If you have diabetes, make sure it is under control before pregnancy.
  • You should talk to your doctor about a healthy diet and exercise plan if you are overweight.
  • Avoid letting your body overheat.