Article Text

Natural History of Spina Bifida Cystica and Cranium Bifidum Cysticum
1. K. M. Laurence,
2. B. J. Tew

## Abstract

The 425 cases of spina bifida cystica and cranium bifidum cysticum born in a population of 850,000 between 1956 and 1962 (with an incidence of 4·12 per 1000 births) were followed. Most did not receive the modern treatment for the condition. Follow-up in 1968 showed that 25% were stillborn, 13% died during the first week of perinatal causes, a further 47% died mostly of the complications of the condition, and 15% are still alive. Life table survival figures suggest for the liveborns a 12·8% life expectancy to the 11th birthday. The series included 18 cases of meningocele (4·2% of the total), diagnosed largely by exclusion; all are surviving and are largely free from physical and mental handicap. 26 cases of encephalocele include 8 survivors who are all retarded but not much crippled. Of the 381 myeloceles, 37 survive who though not much affected mentally are severely handicapped physically with limb paralysis and incontinence, the pattern of which was largely determined by the level of the lesion. There is a close relation between degree of hydrocephalus and severity of mental retardation. Boys surviving show better performance than girls. The incontinent, whether treated or untreated, show no more emotional disturbance than the continent.

This series provides a baseline' allowing modern and surgical treatment to be evaluated. 60% of the total (or 85% of those liveborn) should be regarded as potentially salvageable. Nearly all cases should probably have the open' lesion closed as a surgical emergency, but thereafter no further procedure should be undertaken on those with severe hydrocephalus, established renal damage, persistent intracranial infection, or severe kyphosis, or if other severe malformations are present.

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