Hidden spina bifida: what it is, symptoms and treatment

Hidden spina bifida is a congenital malformation that develops in the baby in the first month of pregnancy and is characterized by incomplete closure of the spine and does not lead to the appearance of signs or symptoms in most cases, being diagnosed through imaging , such as magnetic resonance imaging, for example, or during pregnancy during ultrasound.

Although in most cases it does not lead to the appearance of symptoms, in some cases the presence of hair or a darker spot on the back, especially in the L5 and S1 vertebrae, can be observed, being suggestive of hidden spina bifida.

Hidden spina bifida has no cure, however treatment can be indicated according to the symptoms presented by the child. However, when spinal cord involvement is seen, which is uncommon, surgery may be necessary.

Signs of hidden spina bifida

The hidden spina bifida in most cases does not lead to the appearance of signs or symptoms, passing unnoticed throughout life, not least because it does not involve the spinal cord or the meninges, which are the structures that protect the brain. However, some people may show signs that are suggestive of hidden spina bifida, which are:

  • Formation of a spot on the skin of the back;
  • Formation of a tuft of hair on the back;
  • Slight depression in the back, like a grave;
  • Slight volume due to accumulation of fat.

In addition, when bone marrow involvement is observed, which is uncommon, other signs and symptoms may appear, such as scoliosis, weakness and pain in the legs and arms and loss of bladder and bowel control.

The causes of hidden spina bifida are still not well understood, however it is believed to happen due to alcohol consumption during pregnancy or insufficient folic acid intake.

How the diagnosis is made

The diagnosis of hidden spina bifida can be made during pregnancy by means of ultrasounds and through amniocentesis, which is an exam that aims to check the amount of alpha-fetoprotein in the amniotic fluid, which is a protein found in high quantities in case of spina bifida.

It is also possible to make the diagnosis of spina bifida after birth by observing signs and symptoms that may have been presented by the person, in addition to imaging results, such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging, which in addition to identifying the hidden spina bifida allows the doctor to check for signs of spinal cord involvement.

How the treatment is done

As the spina bifida hides in most cases there is no involvement of the spinal cord or meninges, no treatment is necessary. However, in the event of symptoms, treatment is carried out according to the doctor's guidance and aims to relieve the signs and symptoms presented.

However, when spinal cord involvement is seen, surgery may be requested to correct the spinal cord change, reducing associated symptoms.