Study helps clinicians and families anticipate surgeries for individuals with spina bifida

Team of surgeons operating

In a study appearing in Pediatrics, CDC scientists and other researchers describe the lifetime occurrence of common surgeries and four key health outcomes in individuals with spina bifida. This information can help clinicians and parents know what surgeries and common health issues may be experienced by individuals with spina bifida as they age.

In this study, researchers found that

  • Individuals will all types of spina bifida commonly underwent brain and spine surgeries.
  • More than five in ten of all brain and spine surgeries took place before the first birthday.
  • Individuals with spina bifida were more likely to have surgeries before the age of one and after the age of 25 than during the intervening years.
  • Individuals with myelomeningocele (a type of spina bifida) were less likely to have positive health outcomes than individuals with non-myelomeningocele.
  • Among individuals with myelomeningocele, by age five, one in five individuals were able to manage their bowel and bladder discharge. This number increased to almost five in 10 at 17 years of age.
  • By 18 years of age, at least eight of 10 lifetime surgeries had taken place.
  • As the age of individuals with spina bifida increases, more of them experience skin breakdown and lose the ability to walk.
Woman with spina bifida gardening

About this Study

  • These data describe 3,800 individuals enrolled in the National Spina Bifida Patient Registry (NSBPR) between 2009 and 2013.
  • Individuals enrolled in the NSBPR receive care at spina bifida specialty clinics across the United States. Researchers analyzed data from interviews and health records from these clinics to produce this study.

CDC manages and funds the NSBPR, and partners with spina bifida patient organizations to share research findings with families, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. CDC is the only organization in the United States conducting this broad, multi-site clinical research to help individuals living with spina bifida. The NSBPR is the largest registry of individuals with spina bifida in the United States.

For More Information


Alabi NB, Thibadeau J, Wiener JS, et al. Surgeries and Health Outcomes Among Patients With Spina Bifida. Pediatrics. 2018;142(3):e20173730 [Read Full Article]