About 9 out of every 10 children with severe spina bifida will develop hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a disorder caused by excessive cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced by the central nervous system, and surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
The volume of fluid normally remains constant as the bloodstream constantly reabsorbs the fluid, in order to maintain a constant pressure. Hydrocephalus results from the build-up of CSF. This condition is normally controlled with a VP shunt, which drains excess CSF into the abdomen.
Spina bifida causes the brainstem and cerebellum to become stretched and displaced downward. This causes problems with breathing, blood pressure, swallowing, and muscle coordination.
Tethered spinal cord
The spinal cord is firmly attached in place at the location of the spina bifida. With the spinal cord firmly attached to the brain and abnormally tethered to the spina bifida, the cord begins to stretch during growth. This can cause damage to the spinal cord, as well as the surrounding blood vessels that supply the cord.
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