Neural tube defects (NTD) occur during the early stages of pregnancy when a child’s neural tube is developing in utero. The neural tube is the precursor to the child’s central nervous system, and normally folds into a narrow tube by the 29th day after conception. When the neural tube fails to close completely during this time, the baby is born with a neural tube birth defect. The two most common types of neural tube birth defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. Most children affected by a malformation of this kind experience significant difficulties in learning, movement and development, and some die soon after birth. If your child was born with a neural tube defect, which you believe to be the result of a medical error, contact a birth defect attorney to discuss your child’s potential entitlement to lifetime care.
Spina bifida is a neural tube defect which occurs when the spinal cord fails to develop properly during fetal growth, resulting in an opening in the spinal column through which the spinal cord may actually protrude. There are two types of spina bifida, spina bifida occulta and spina bifida cystica, which vary greatly in severity. Spina bifida occulta is the least serious form of this birth defect and may actually go unnoticed throughout the child’s life. The most common indicator of spina bifida occulta is a small birthmark or patch of hair at the site of the malformation. Spina bifida cystica is far more severe, characterized by a fluid-filled cyst protruding from the back which contains a section of the spinal cord and nerves.
Anencephaly is a devastating neural tube birth defect characterized by the absence of a large portion of the brain and skull. Anencephaly occurs when the head end of the neural tube doesn’t close properly in utero, resulting in the absence of the forebrain, which is the largest part of the brain, and the cerebrum, which is responsible for movement, thinking and senses. Although some children with anencephaly may exhibit reflex movements at birth, the lack of a functioning cerebrum makes it impossible for the child to ever regain consciousness. Most children born with this birth defect die within a few hours or days after birth.
Treatment for neural tube birth defects like spina bifida depends on the severity of the condition. Children born with spina bifida occulta, for instance, may not require any treatment throughout their lives. In children with spina bifida cystica, however, surgery is required to close the opening in the spinal cord and cover the cord with muscles and skin taken from either side of the back. Unfortunately, children born with spina bifida cystica often struggle with significant complications and disability throughout their lives, requiring lifelong medical treatment and assistance. There is currently no cure for anencephaly and treatment for this birth defect is only supportive.
Neural tube birth defects are some of the most catastrophic malformations affecting children today. If you or a loved one has suffered from a neural tube birth defect like spina bifida or anencephaly, which you believe to be the result of a medical error, contact a birth defect attorney to discuss your legal options. You may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the allegedly negligent hospital, doctor or Ob/Gyn charged with your care. The long-term consequences resulting from potential negligence or poor training on the part of a healthcare professional can be devastating. With the help of a qualified birth defect lawyer, you can collect the compensation you deserve and protect yourself and your family from further harm.