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Neural Tube Defects

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are serious birth defects that involve incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord and/or protective coverings for these organs. There are 3 types of NTDs:

1. Anencephaly. Babies born with anencephaly have underdeveloped brains and incomplete skulls. Most infants born with anencephaly do not survive more than a few hours after birth.

2. Encephalocele. Encephalocele results in a hole in the skull through which brain tissue protrudes. Although most babies with encephalocele do not live or are severely retarded, early surgery has been able to save a few children.

3. Spina bifida . Spina bifida is the most frequently occurring permanently disabling birth defect, affecting approximately one out of every 1,000 newborns in the United States. It results from the failure of the spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy. In severe cases, the spinal cord protrudes through the back and may be covered by skin or a thin membrane. Surgery to close a newborn's back is generally performed within 24 hours after birth to minimise the risk of infection and to preserve existing function in the spinal cord. A large percentage of children born with spina bifida also have hydrocephalus, the accumulation of fluid in the brain. Some children with spina bifida also experience learning problems and research has shown that spina bifida patients have the potential to become allergic (to some degree) to latex (cf. HON Allergy Glossary, Latex Allergy ).
Most children born with spina bifida live well into adulthood as a result of today's sophisticated medical techniques.

Recent studies have shown that one factor that increases the risk of having an NTD baby is low folic acid status before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. In September 1992, based on randomised control trials and observational studies, the U.S. Public Health Service published a recommendation, stating that " all women of childbearing age in the United States should consume 0.4 mg of folic acid daily to reduce the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect ". See also nutrition during pregnancy .

For further, more detailed information on this topic, please refer to the reference source for this page.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Spina Bifida Association of America :

Other HON resources 
   From MedHunt

Neural Tube Defects


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Contact Last modified: Jun 24 2002