A meningocele is a birth defect (neural tube defect) that causes protrusion of a sac (filled with spinal fluid) from the spinal column. The sac may be covered with skin or with meninges and is often visible from the outside of the back.

Causes and risk factors

Although the exact cause of meningocele is not known, but studies have revealed that low levels of folic acid, vitamin C and riboflavin during early pregnancy (first trimester) can cause neural defects.

Along with these, following risk factors increases the chances of its development:

  • Exposure to teratogens, tryptan blue or arsenic
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Family history of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs)
  • Some viral infections like rubella or cytomegalovirus, etc.
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Symptoms of Meningocele

The symptoms depend upon the size and location of bulge on the spine. Although meningocele causes little nerve damage, but it may cause minor disabilities like:

  • Development of hydrocephalous
  • Involuntary and uncoordinated movements
  • Spastic weakness of all four limbs
  • An abnormally small sized head
  • Trouble with bladder control
  • Delayed developmental milestones
  • Numbness
  • Vision problems
  • Mental and growth retardation
  • Seizures

Diagnosis of Meningocele

Meningocele should typically be diagnosed before birth by following diagnostic technologies during prenatal period of the pregnant lady:

  • Ultrasound
  • Amniocentesis
  • Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) screenings in the second trimester
  • Multiple-marking screening tests

But in cases where it’s not spotted until after birth, following tests are performed to diagnose meningocele:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Genetic analysis

Treatment of Meningocele

The treatment of the meningocele involves closing of the overlying meninges and the skin by surgery within 24-48 hours after delivery to prevent infection and to protect the exposed area of the spine.

Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) is a minimally invasive technique that is used to treat meningocele at the skull base and top of the spine. The procedure does not require an open incision and surgeon can remove the meningocele through the nose and nasal cavities.

Follow up care including rehabilitation is generally required for every child having meningocele.

Meningocel treatment