Spina Bifida Information

Spina bifida is a rare neural tube defect that develops in unborn babies. In the womb, the neural tube – or the structure that eventually becomes the spinal cord – typically forms fully in the first few weeks after conception. Babies with this condition have neural tubes that do not develop or close properly, which can potentially cause neurological and musculoskeletal abnormalities.


There are three main types of spina bifida, each with its own symptoms and complications. Here is a brief overview of each type:

  • Myelomeningocele – This is the most severe and recognizable form. Babies with this condition have a portion of the spinal cord and surrounding membranes protruding from the lower or middle back in a sac-like shape. Neurological disorders often accompany myelomeningocele, including seizures, bowel problems, and muscle weakness.
  • Meningocele – This rare form develops when the meninges, or the spinal cord’s protective tissues, grow through an opening in the middle or lower back. The displaced meninges can usually be removed without impacting neural function since, in these cases, the spinal cord is fully developed and intact.
  • Spina bifida occulta – Characterized by a small gap between one or more spinal vertebrae, this mild form rarely affects nerves and typically doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms and is often discovered incidentally on X-rays. Indicators may include an unusual patch of hair or a birthmark above the area of the defect. 


Tampa General Hospital’s Children's Medical Center offers comprehensive treatment for all types of spina bifida. In collaboration with a team of neurologists and other specialists, our pediatric neurosurgeons provide comprehensive treatment to repair exposed spinal cords and tissues in newborns. Additionally, our pediatric orthopaedic surgeons can correct malpositioned feet and legs. As children grow, TGH is with them every step of the way, helping them manage and overcome the medical challenges that can accompany spina bifida.

To locate a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, use TGH’s Physician Finder.