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Spina bifida is a neural tube defect present at birth. There are a number of reasons why an infant may develop ppina bifida, including being exposed to medications while in utero. Ongoing studies suggest that taken Zofran, a popular anti-nausea medication, while pregnant, may heighten the risk of your baby developing the condition.

What is Spina Bifida?

As mentioned earlier, spina bifida is a form of a medical condition known as neural tube defects. An infant’s neural tube begins to form early in pregnancy and closes around the 28th day. Infants with spina bifida, however, have a part of the neural tube that either fails to form properly or fails to close completely. This, in turn, causes spinal cord abnormalities.
child in wheelchair
Spina bifida can range from mild to severe. Spina bifida in its mildest form is marked by small gaps in the vertebrae of the spine, whereas more severe cases can result in the spinal cord being completely exposed, forming bulges along the baby’s back.

Symptoms of Spina Bifida

Babies with mild forms of spina bifida may not exhibit any symptoms at all. However, even in its mildest form, spina bifida can sometimes be noticed at birth if the infant has extra fat on his/her back, a tuft of hair on the back, a small birthmark, and/or a small dimple.

One of the most severe forms of spina bifida, also known as “open spina bifida” or myelomeningocele, occurs when the spinal cord is open along the mid and/or lower back. Symptoms of open spina bifida may include:

  • Weakness in the leg muscles
  • Seizures
  • Deformed feet
  • Paralysis (in extreme cases)
  • Bowel issues
  • Bladder issues

How is Spina Bifida Diagnosed?

Spina bifida is generally diagnosed during a prenatal screening, although the test results aren’t always 100% accurate. Sometimes the test will not show spina bifida even though your baby has it, and other times the test may show positive for spina bifida even though the infant is born healthy and without it.

Physicians typically check for spina bifida by administering blood tests, such as the maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP) test and number of various other types of blood tests. In addition, an ultrasound during prenatal screening may be administered so that your doctor can look for spina bifida and any other abnormalities.

Spina Bifida Treatment Options

Mild forms of spina bifida, sometimes referred to as spina bifida occulta, usually do not require any treatment. For more severe cases, such as myelomeningocele, surgery may be a viable treatment option. Surgery for spina bifida consists of a neurosurgeon covering the baby’s spinal cord and its exposed tissue with skin and muscle. This type of surgery is usually done within 24 to 48 hours after birth.

In some instances, spina bifida treatment can begin while the infant is still in utero. Known as prenatal surgery, this form of treatment takes place prior to the 26th week of pregnancy. The mother’s uterus is opened and the surgeon repairs the infant’s spinal cord. Infants who undergo prenatal surgery may have a better outcome than those who undergo once treatment once born. However, there are risks involved to the mother’s health during prenatal surgery and the chances of having a premature birth are heightened.

Spina Bifida Causes

Doctors are still unsure what causes spina bifida, but evidence suggests that females babies tend to develop the condition more than male babies, and white and Hispanic babies are affected more than other races. In addition, a family history of neural tube defects, maternal diabetes, maternal obesity, and maternal folate deficiency may heighten the risk.

Taking certain medications has also been associated with an increased risk of infants developing spina bifida. Zofran, in particular, has been linked with an heightened risk of neural tube defects along with numerous other types of birth defects.

If You Took Zofran While Pregnant

If you took Zofran while pregnant, keep in mind that you may be eligible for compensation. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the makers of Zofran, have been promoting the medication as off-label use for morning sickness, although the drug is only approved for use by cancer and surgery patients. In turn, numerous mothers who took Zofran while pregnant are having babies with severe, life-threatening birth defects.

To find out more about Zofran and what you may be eligible for, refer to our article, Zofran Lawsuits.