Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is the most common permanent birth defect in the United States. It occurs when the brain or spinal cord – and/or their protective coverings – do not develop properly during the first month of pregnancy. This often causes permanent nerve damage that can result in various levels of paralysis, weakness or loss of feeling in the feet or legs, problems with bladder and bowel control, a buildup of fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus), and trouble learning. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the person and how much the spine is affected.

About 1,400 babies are born with spina bifida in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The exact cause is unknown, but experts believe that genetic (inherited), nutritional, and environmental factors all play a role in spina bifida. There is no cure, but most people with the condition lead long and productive lives.

UAB Medicine’s Adult Spina Bifida Clinic is one of the only clinics of its kind in the southeast. In 2020, the Spina Bifida Association designated the clinic as one of its first Clinic Care Partners, which means that UAB meets 10 important standards in caring for patients with spina bifida. This clinic provides rehabilitation, urology, and neurosurgery services, along with testing such as X-ray and ultrasound. It also provides access to wound care services, counseling and social services, wheelchair seating and physical therapy, and specialists in orthotic and prosthetic devices. The clinic is a collaboration among the UAB Medicine departments of Neurosurgery, Urology, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, which allows patients to receive a wide range of care during a single clinic visit.

Until recent years, spina bifida was mostly considered a pediatric condition. Thanks to medical advances, more and more people with spina bifida are living healthy adult lives, which creates a growing need for the services provided by the UAB Adult Spina Bifida Clinic. The clinic works closely with its partners at Children’s of Alabama hospital to ease the transition from pediatric to adult care around the age of 21.

To make an appointment with the UAB Adult Spina Bifida Clinic, please call 205-934-4131. Referring providers may fax their records to 205-996-7887.

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