Meningocele repair is an operation used to address a spinal birth
defect. If your newborn’s spine didn’t develop correctly, an abnormal opening
may be present and this operation may be necessary. This procedure may also be
performed if a small, swollen sac or cyst protrudes from the newborn’s spinal
The procedure usually takes place within 12 to 48 hours of a
baby’s birth. During the procedure, the surgeon will drain the excess spinal
fluid from the sac, close the opening, and repair the area of the defect. This
will allow the child to grow and develop normally.
Needs A Meningocele Repair?
Newborns diagnosed with a birth defect called spina bifida
may need this operation. These babies experience a defect in the formation of
the spine. This typically happens during the first trimester. This defect affects
the spinal cord and the fluid-filled sac that surrounds the spinal cord. Sometimes,
this defect can affect the surrounding nerves.
Certain diagnostic tests performed during pregnancy can detect
spina bifida before the baby is born. Blood tests performed between 15 and 20
weeks can reveal if the fetus is at risk of a neural tube defect. A prenatal
ultrasound that takes images of the fetus’ tissues and organs may also lend
test may also be performed. During this test, the doctor will examine a small
amount of amniotic fluid. This test can most accurately diagnose the presence
of a neural tube defect. The neural tube is the precursor to the child’s
central nervous system.
Once the baby is born, a sac protruding from the spinal cord is
usually visible. This can confirm an earlier diagnosis of spina bifida. The
doctor may use X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) to further examine the baby’s spine. This can ensure a correct
Meningocele is a type of spina bifida. About 1,500 babies are
born with this condition each year. The defect can happen anywhere along the
spine where the neural tube doesn’t close as it should. This leaves an opening
in the spine.
There are three main types of spina bifida.
Spina Bifida Occulta
This is considered to be a mild form of the defect. The spinal
cord and surrounding structures are still inside the baby, but the bones of the
lower back fail to form normally. This leaves a hairy patch or dimple over the
affected area of the spine.
This is seen as mild to moderate and is the least common. A
small, moist sac or cyst protrudes through the gap in the spine. This sac
contains a portion of the spinal cord membrane (meninges) and some spinal
fluid. The sac may be covered with skin or part of the spinal cord membrane.
The sac contains little or no nerve tissue.
This is a severe form of spina bifida. The spinal cord and nerves
develop outside the baby’s body. This results in weakness and loss of sensation
below the defect. It can interfere with bowel or bladder function or cause
fluid to build up in the brain.
Is Meningocele Repair Performed?
Once the baby is diagnosed with meningocele, the doctor will most
likely schedule surgery as soon as possible. An early surgery may prevent
infection, swelling, and further damage to the spinal cord. Until the surgery, the
defect will be covered with a sterile dressing. Your child may be transferred
to a neonatal intensive care unit.
During the surgery, general anesthesia will be used to make sure
the baby is asleep and experiences no pain. The surgeon will make an incision
in the sac or cyst in order to drain some of the excess fluid. The spinal cord
is then covered with the membranes for protection. The surgeon will then close
Is Recovery Like?
Your baby will usually require about two weeks of recovery time
in the hospital after surgery. Doctors will administer antibiotics to prevent
infection. Additional tests, such as MRIs or ultrasounds, may be performed to
ensure that the surgery site is healing normally. These tests can detect any
swelling or fluid buildup (hydrocephalus)
that may develop after the defect is repaired. Nurses will position the baby so
that baby lies on the stomach in order to avoid putting pressure on the wound.
Results will depend on the amount of damage done to the baby’s
spinal nerves. Since meningocele typically doesn’t damage any of the neural
tissues, surgery usually has excellent results. Babies rarely have any lasting
disabilities or brain, nerve, or muscle problems caused by a meningocele.
Risks and Complications Are Associated with Meningocele Repair?
As with any surgery that involves general anesthesia, this
procedure carries a small risk of allergic reactions to the anesthesia
medication. Although bleeding, infection, and fluid build up are rare, they’re
possible. Your doctor will advise you about how to care for your baby at home.
Your doctor will also tell you which symptoms to watch for in order to
determine if there are any complications.
You may also be referred to a team of medical experts in spina
bifida who will follow up with you and your baby after you leave the hospital.
These professionals will work with you to help detect any additional problems.
Problems may indicate muscle weakness, speech problems, or other potential
issues related to the neural tube defect.
I Prevent Meningocele?
There isn’t any one cause of spina bifida. Your genetic makeup
plays the most significant role. Getting enough folic acid during pregnancy has
been shown to help prevent the condition.
Sources of folic acid include:
- whole grains
- fortified breakfast cereals
- dried beans
- green leafy vegetables
- egg yolks
- citrus fruits
- fruit juices
During pregnancy, talk to your doctor about taking folic acid
Some medications may put you at additional risk for giving birth
to a child with spina bifida. If possible, check with your doctor about your
prescriptions before becoming pregnant. Diabetes and obesity also somewhat
increase your risk of having a baby with meningocele. Because of this, it’s
important that you maintain a healthy weight and control your blood sugar