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Meningocele: causes, symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

It is known as a meningocele to a flat hernia of the so-called meninges, that is, of the arachnoid and dura mater, which are membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, which is produced by an embryological defect in both fibrous tissues as muscular. In other words, it is a localized birth defect, in which the spinal column and spinal canal fail to close before the baby is born.

This disorder, also called myelomeningocele or meningomyelocele, is a type of spina bifida that manifests itself in the form of a small moist sac, called a cyst, which protrudes from the spinal column and contains a membrane, a part of the spinal cord, fluid and nerves. If you want to know more about this birth defect, we advise you to read the following article by FastlyHealabout meningocele: causes, symptoms and treatment.

Causes of meningocele

Generally, during the first month of pregnancy, in the fetus both sides of the spine come together to wrap around the spinal cord, the tissues that cover the spinal cord known as the meninges, and the spinal nerves. The neural tube is the brain and the spinal column when they are developing, and the meningocele is a defect in this neural tube , in which the bones that make up the spine are not fully formed.

As the spinal canal remains unfinished, the spinal cord and the tissues that cover it manage to protrude from the child’s back. However, this alteration is not as frequent, since according to the US National Library of Medicine [1] , 1 in 4,000 babies can be affected.

Despite this, children born with myelomeningocele have a high probability of suffering from other congenital disorders. In fact, eight out of ten children with this disorder have, at the same time, hydrocephalus , which is an additional accumulation of fluid in the brain that increases the pressure of this organ and can cause various damages.

Although the exact cause of meningocele is not known, there are several factors that can contribute to its appearance. Among them are the presence of low levels of vitamin B9 , commonly known as folic acid , in the mother’s body before and during pregnancy. It is important that women have this vitamin in sufficient quantity, since it is an essential nutrient for the proper formation of the spinal cord and brain.

Likewise, there is a greater risk of suffering from this defect when someone in the family was already born with this alteration, although many times there is no such connection. Other aspects such as obesity, diabetes, environmental and nutritional factors, and the mother’s use of certain medications, such as anticonvulsants, can also play a role. Despite being detailed, these factors only increase the risk of suffering meningocele, they do not have a direct connection with the alteration.

Meningocele: symptoms

In a child born with a meningocele, there may be an open area or sac that contains fluid inside and is located in the middle or lower back. The most frequent symptoms that babies with this disorder present are:

  • Have a loss of toilet training.
  • Present a lack of sensitivity, which can be total or partial.
  • Suffering from paralysis in the lower limbs, either partial or total.
  • Feeling great weakness in the hips, feet, or legs.
  • Sometimes the shape of the feet or legs are not completely normal.
  • Some patients have fluid accumulation within the skull.

Meningocele: treatment

It is very important that the mother carry out frequent check-ups throughout the pregnancy , since if a serious alteration is detected, the specialist may make the woman consider the option of interrupting the pregnancy. However, there is the option of intrauterine surgical treatment to close this defect and, in this way, reduce the risks that the patient will suffer various complications in the future.

If the disorder was not identified before the baby is born, the doctor will most likely recommend surgery to repair the defect during the first days of the child’s life. Before the procedure is performed, it is essential to handle the baby with extreme caution because it could increase the damage to the spinal cord. It is for this reason that specialists will recommend:

  • Some positions and special care.
  • Use certain protection devices.
  • Change the way you feed, handle and bathe him.

In patients with hydrocephalus, that is, with fluid accumulation in the brain, a ventriculoperitoneal shunt may need to be placed to help drain this fluid. Also, treatment may include taking antibiotics to prevent or treat infections such as meningitis.

Most patients require lifelong treatments to control different disorders that arise from damage that occurs in the spinal cord and nerves, for example, intestinal, bladder, muscle and joint disorders.

Meningocele and associated complications

Although it is important that the patient with meningocele undergo permanent controls as indicated by their doctor, there are certain complications that may be due to this defect, among them are:

  • Hydrocephalus, the accumulation of fluid in the skull.
  • Loss of sphincter control.
  • Meningitis.
  • Leg paralysis or a lot of weakness.
  • Complications and difficulty giving birth.
  • Traumatic delivery.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Meningocele: causes, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Brain and Nerves category .

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