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Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Myelomeningocele

At the UC Davis Medical Center we offer myelomeningocele rehabilitation as part of our Pediatric Rehabilitation Program. Myelomeningocele is the most severe form of spina bifida, in which a portion of the spinal cord itself protrudes through the back. In some cases, sacs are covered with skin; in others, tissue and nerves are exposed. Generally, people use the terms "spina bifida" and "myelomeningocele" interchangeably. Rehabilitation involves the coordination of specialty care, commonly needed by these patients, including orthopedic/bracing, neurosurgical, urologic, and therapy services.

Characteristics

The effects of myelomeningocele, the most serious form of spina bifida, may include muscle weakness or paralysis below the area of the spine where the incomplete closure (or cleft) occurs, loss of sensation below the cleft, and loss of bowel and bladder control. In addition, fluid may build up and cause an accumulation of fluid in the brain (a condition known as hydrocephalus). A large percentage (70%-90%) of children born with myelomeningocele have hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is controlled by a surgical procedure called "shunting," which relieves the fluid buildup in the brain. If a drain (shunt) is not implanted, the pressure buildup can cause brain damage, seizures or blindness. Hydrocephalus may occur without spina bifida, but the two conditions often occur together.

Contact and referral information

Health care professionals who wish to refer a patient to the UC Davis Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic should call (800) 4-UCDAVIS or (800) 482-3284. Patients who would like more information about the clinic should call (916) 734-7041.