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Spina bifida

Spina bifida

Spina bifida is a common and disabling disorder in which the embryonic neural tube does not fully close. Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists work collaboratively alongside orthopaedic surgeons, neurological surgeons and urologists at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California to help children with spina bifida lead active, productive lives.

Spina bifida care includes:

  • Diagnosis and surgical treatment of spinal cord tethering
  • Treatment of myelomeningocele, myelodysplasia, lipomeningocele
  • Non-surgical and surgical treatment to achieve bowel and bladder continence
  • Surgical and orthotic treatment of orthopaedic deformities (legs and spine)

Collaborative approach to care

All patients benefit from the expertise of our multidisciplinary team of professionals who treat patients in mind, body and spirit. The collaborative care is coordinated by the case manager. The team includes:

  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists
  • Orthopaedic surgeons
  • Neurological surgeons
  • Urologists
  • Nurses
  • Physical therapists
  • Orthotists
  • Child life therapists

The expertise, experience and positive environment of care create a synergy that distinguishes the spina bifida program at Shriners Hospitals for Children.


Diana Farmer, M.D., FACS, FRCS, chief of pediatric surgery and chair of surgery at UC Davis, performs and studies repair of neural tube defects in-utero. Meanwhile, scientific researchers at the Northern California Shriners Hospital search for cures. Adding the vitamin folic acid to the maternal diet diminishes the frequency of spina bifida, but how folate does this remains a mystery. Through microscopic observations of the developing frog, scientists at Shriners Hospital have obtained novel evidence that folate increases the ability of cells on the two sides of the spinal cord to fuse together and prevent spina bifida. Another study is investigating whether a protein that controls the development of arms, legs, the face and brain may be involved in the etiology of spina bifida.