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What Role Does Indian Healthcare Play in Spina Bifida Treatment?

Spina bifida, a neural tube defect (NTD), affects the spine and is usually noticeable at birth. It is the second-most common NTD In India. One in almost every 1,500 babies is born with some form of spina bifida. In the vast field of healthcare, treating spina bifida in India is proof of the nation’s progress in medical innovation and compassionate care. 

The cost of spina bifida treatment in India ranges from INR 2,50,000 to INR 4,50,000. 

Understanding Spina Bifida

Spina bifida, a congenital disability, occurs during the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy. It occurs when a part of the fetal spinal cord fails to close properly. This results in the child being born with a part of the spinal cord being exposed on the back. When the neural tube does not close completely, the backbone protecting the spinal cord does not form and close as it should, causing damage to the nerves and the spinal cord.

Spina bifida might cause intellectual and physical disabilities that range from mild to severe. 

Dr. Dinakar A, a renowned Spine Surgeon, regularly performs spinal surgeries. 

What are the Different Types of Spina Bifida?

The most common types of spina bifida are as follows:

  1. Myelomeningocele is the most common and severe type of spina bifida. In this condition, a fluid sac comes through an opening in the baby’s back. Part of the nerves and spinal cord are damaged in this sac. Myelomeningocele causes moderate to severe disabilities, such as:
  • Difficulties related to using the bathroom
  • Loss of feeling in the legs or feet
  • Unable to move the legs
  1. In meningocele, a fluid sac protrudes through an opening in the baby’s back. The spinal cord is not present in this sac. Usually, there is little or no nerve damage, but it can cause minor disabilities.
  2. The mildest type of spina bifida, Spina bifida occulta, is sometimes called “hidden” spina bifida. In this condition, there is a small spine gap but no opening or sac on the back. The nerves and spinal cord are usually normal. It is often not discovered until late childhood or adulthood, as it usually does not cause any disabilities.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Spina Bifida?

The causes of the condition are unknown, but many factors that increase the risk of a baby developing the condition include the following:

  • Low folic acid intake during pregnancy
  • Having a family history of spina bifida
  • Consumption of certain medicines, such as valproic acid (used to prevent seizures) during pregnancy

How is Spina Bifida Diagnosed?

Spina bifida can be diagnosed with the help of the following:

  • 3D-EOS: It is an imaging system that aims to provide frontal and lateral radiography images while limiting the X-ray radiation absorbed by the patient. It gives 3-D pictures, allowing the doctor to look closely at the structures and plan the surgery.
  • Bone Scan: It is a nuclear medicine test that uses a small amount of tracer, which is a radioactive substance. The tracer is infused into a vein. Regions that absorb too much tracer are the locations that need urgent medical intervention.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: A CT scan uses an X-ray machine to make a 3-D photo of the body from inside. Sometimes, the specialist infuses a special dye (contrast medium) into a patient’s vein to get more detailed pictures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI is a symptomatic strategy that uses large magnets and radio frequencies to create high-definition pictures of organs and structures inside the body. 
  • X-ray: A radiologist can tell the severity of a deformed spine after taking pictures of the spinal cord.

What are the Treatment Options Available for Spina Bifida?

The treatment for the symptoms or conditions associated with spina bifida includes the following:

  • Surgery within 24 to 72 hours of birth to close the opening in the spine and to treat hydrocephalus
  • Physiotherapy and occupational therapy to help make everyday life easier and improve independence
  • Treatment for complications with assistive devices and mobility equipment (wheelchair or walking aids)
  • Treatments for urinary and bowel and urinary

 Treatment for remaining symptoms can include:

  • Additional surgeries
  • Medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Walking aids

With the proper treatment and support, many children with spina bifida survive well into adulthood.

Dr. Dinakar A specializes in keyhole spine surgery, disc replacement, minimally invasive surgery, spine trauma, etc.

How Can One Prevent the Occurrence of Spina Bifida?

Pregnant women should follow these preventive steps:

  • Take a folic acid supplement.
  • Consume food containing folic acid (e.g., leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans, etc.)
  • Discuss your medications/supplements with your doctor.
  • If you have diabetes, make sure it’s under control before pregnancy.
  • If you are obese, then talk to your healthcare provider about an exercise plan and a healthy diet.

What is the Cost of Spina Bifida Treatment?

The treatment plan involves surgery to close the opening in the spine. Medicines and physical therapy are required to treat related complications. The cost of treatment in India ranges from INR 2,50,000 to INR 4,50,000. International patients can expect this cost to be in the range of USD 5,500 to USD 7,000.

India’s journey in addressing spina bifida inspires a world where medical care is not just about treating conditions but uplifting lives. India has continuously grown as an affordable and high-quality treatment destination. The affordable cost of spina bifida treatment in India, compared to other countries, makes India a preferred destination of choice.

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