Some common neural tube defects

neural tube defect

The neural tube is a narrow channel that closes between the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy to form a protective outer layer for the developing brain and spinal cord. A neural tube defect occurs when part of this closure does not completely close, leaving an opening in the spine called a spina bifida. In other cases, the entire neural tube fails to close, leading to anencephaly, which is fatal. All babies with NTDs have abnormal positioning of their lower limbs as well as hands or feet. The conditions are associated with serious disabilities but can be treated by physical therapy and surgery.

Here are common Neural Tube Defects:

Spina Bifida

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Spina Bifida is the most common neural tube defect. It is a birth defect that occurs when the backbones (vertebrae) do not form completely around the developing spinal cord and membranes. An opening will allow the contents of the spinal cord, such as nerve roots and surrounding cerebrospinal fluid to protrude through the opening in the spine. This can cause pain, difficulty with bowel or bladder control, foot drop, leg weakness, paralysis in one leg or both legs which may require surgery in infancy or later in life in order to improve gait and mobility in later childhood or adult life. The earlier it’s detected & treated early after birth, the better chances for improvement are possible.


Encephalocele is a neural tube defect that causes sac-like protrusions of the brain and membranes through openings in the skull. The meninges (protective coverings) or cerebral tissue may herniate into the spinal canal through one or more openings, usually near the back of the skull, lower back of the skull, or at the top of the forehead. Surgery to repair encephaloceles is typically performed within the first year after birth.


Meningocele is also a form of Neural Tube Defects that occurs when only the protective membranes protrude along with other contents but not nerve tissue. Usually, surgery can be done to close up this opening without any harm to nerves, muscles, and bones beneath it depending on the area it is at.


This is the most serious form of Neural Tube Defects in which parts of the spinal cord and its protective covering (the meninges) protrude through an opening in the bones of the spine. This is due to the failure of complete closure of the neural tube, thus allowing these contents to herniate into sac-like protrusions. It can cause many serious medical problems that require extensive treatment and surgery, including permanent incontinence and paralysis affecting both legs or all four limbs.

Arnold Chiari II malformation & syringomyelia

This is also a type of neural tube defect but it’s not congenital, meaning this develops later in life, causing a blockage in ventricles (fluid-filled spaces within the brain) which may contribute to nerve issues such as pain and sensory problems, also weakening of the spinal cord.

Caudal Regression Syndrome

Occurs when the lower half (or more) of the body doesn’t develop normally while other parts do (like hands or arms). This may occur because of damage to early spinal cord development – mainly between 3-5 weeks after conception. This can affect the normal development of the lower spine and legs, genitalia, anus, bladder function and even breathing issues can occur.


It is a rare form of Neural Tube Defect affecting only about 1 person in every 100,000 births. In this condition, there may be a split or gap in the spinal cord where it passes through the tailbone area which contains no actual brain tissue but has 8-10 nerves branching from it instead! Signs & symptoms depend on how much damage is done to that specific area of the spinal cord.


All these Neural Tube Defects (NTD) show different signs and symptoms that vary from person to person. Some may have mild cases while others might be life-threatening, depending on the severity of the NTD in each individual case. One can take precautions such as having a well-balanced & nutritious diet rich in folic acid (folate), intake of vitamins like B9 or B12 during pregnancy, not smoking or drinking alcohol when pregnant, avoiding medication use during early stages of pregnancy including before becoming aware you are pregnant or even some OTC drugs which must be mentioned to your doctor so they can advise you accordingly! These all help prevent neural tube defects but keep in mind it’s still genetic so if someone else in your family has such issues or had it before, it’s best to take extra precautions.

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