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Neural Tube Defects

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Houston Neural Tube Defect Attorneys

What Are Neural Tube Defects (NTD)?

Neural tube defects (NTD) are dangerous birth defects that occur early in a pregnancy.

In many cases, neural tube defects can be debilitating and result in a life of confinement in a wheelchair for children. NTDs develop in the first month of conception, so most mothers do not even know that they are pregnant when the NTD forms and affects the fetus. Because mothers are not aware of the pregnancy when the risk of neural tube defects is high, they may take medications which can cause the NTD to develop.

These illnesses are called NTDs because they occur while the fetus is still is the neural tube. This is the early embryonic structure which develops only 18 to 30 days after conception. The neural tube starts as a flat plate of tissues and then forms two ridges of tissue that fold up and fuse into a cylinder or tube. This then forms the brain and spinal cord. When the tube fails to close fully, it results in a neural tube defect.

1 in every 1,000 to 2,000 babies born in the U.S. suffers some NTD. This means that about 1,500 to 2,000 babies suffer from one of these debilitating injuries every year. Interestingly enough, about 95% of all babies born with a defect of this nature come from parents that have no family history of these sorts of defects.

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a devastating birth injury that can cause a child to suffer permanent disability.

In many cases, a baby develops spina bifida in the womb due to the side effect of a drug. As a result, the child's spinal column never fully forms, leading to severe injury. Spina bifida is typically characterized by the dimpling of the sacrum and by a tuft of hair that grows at the end of the sacral area. Sometimes, victims of the illness will have a sac-like structure that protrudes from the skin on the middle to lower back.

There are three main types of spina bifida which can be discovered in babies when they are born:

  • Myelomeningocele
  • Meningoceles
  • Spina bifida occulta

The spinal cord may even be exposed, which can lead to terrible spinal infections. Often, children with spina bifida also suffer from meningitis or hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is where the fluid of the brain does not circulate properly, resulting in painful pressure and brain damage.

Types of Spina Bifida

  • Myelomeningocele
    This occurs when the spinal cord and the meninges protrude out of the baby's back. Meninges are the membranes that cover the spinal cord to protect it. Babies born with this form of the illness are at high risk of a fatal injury. As a result, babies typically need surgery within a few months of birth to correct the problem. The rarest and most severe type of spina bifida.
  • Meningoceles
    This is what happens when the meninges protrude out of the baby's back, but the spinal cord remains in the same place.
  • Spina Bifida Occulta
    This is when the spinal cord and meninges remain in place and are covered by the skin. This is the most common of the spina bifida types; up to 1 in 5 people having spina bifida occulta to some extent. Many people are unaware they even have the condition.

Symptoms of Spina Bifida

Babies who are born with this devastating illness often have a few common symptoms. Because the child is young, the devastating effects of spina bifida may not seem obvious at first. Doctors will want to look for any weakness in the feet, legs, or hips as well as any partial or complete paralysis in the lower body. Often, those with spina bifida lack bladder control and bowel control. Those who suffer from spina bifida may need surgery at an early age to lessen the neurological damage and may need a shunt placed in the spine.

The symptoms of an undiagnosed spina bifida issue include:

  • Hairy patch over the protrusion
  • Fatty, cyst-like spot over the defect
  • Hemangioma (bruise-like spot made of blood vessels)
  • Red birthmark noticeably darker than surrounding skin
  • Patch of skin that lacks pigmentation

What Causes Spina Bifida?

The exact causes are unknown, but there are certain environmental and genetic factors linked to it. Experts suggest that the injuries may come from a virus or a folic acid deficiency in the fetus. There are certain medications which can also cause this injury and put newborns at risk.

Specific dangerous drugs have been cited as possible causes of spina bifida in the fetus:

  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Celexa
  • Lexapro
  • Zoloft
  • Clomid
  • SSRI Antidepressants

Many mothers are urged to take nutrients or eat foods with plenty of folic acid to prevent spina bifida. However, researchers have found a link between this birth defect and mothers who do not metabolize folic acid effectively. As a result, the issue may be more than simply a nutrient deficiency. In many cases, however, prescription medications may have been involved in the development of a spinal cleft.


This is the second most frequent defect seen in babies. With this birth defect, the baby is born with only a partially formed brain and spinal cord, with most cases lacking the forebrain (what makes cognitive thought possible). Babies born with anencephaly only have a thin membrane covering the top of the head, with no skin or bone. Most babies with this disorder do not survive; those that do are in a vegetative state.

Babies born with anencephaly:

  • Feel no pain
  • Are blind
  • Are deaf
  • Are unconscious
  • Have no cognitive ability

Sometimes babies with the illness may breathe on their own or respond to touch, but these are reflex responses housed in the brainstem.


This is a severe, relatively rare birth defect that occurs when the skull does not develop correctly. This can cause parts of the brain to stick out through a hole in the skull. Because the brain is exposed, it may not function properly. A slight bump or pressure can be immediately fatal. Per the CDC, babies with the illness normally develop a large bulge that may look like a tumor. Babies may also develop an unusually small head.

What Causes NTDs?

While no one has determined a direct cause of NTDs, doctors believe that the use of anti-seizure medication can increase the risk of these illnesses. Sometimes race, ethnicity, and geographical locations are risk factors for an NTD.

Mothers are at a higher risk of having children with neural tube defects if she:

  • Has previously given birth to babies with NTD
  • Is exposed to high temperatures while pregnant
  • Is excessively obese
  • Is insulin-dependent
  • Has diabetes mellitus

Talk to a Houston NTD Attorney at Arnold & Itkin: (888) 493-1629

If you are struggling with the devastating effects of a birth injury, don't hesitate to contact a Houston birth injury attorney. We have helped thousands of injured clients get justice from doctors, hospitals, and other powerful opponents because we care about justice and results. Our advocacy has helped our clients receive the funds they needed to recover medical costs, psychological trauma, emotional pain, and physical injuries. As a result of our thorough approach, we have obtained billions in verdicts and settlements. Let us see what we can do for you.

Hold negligent doctors, nurses, and hospitals accountable. Secure the best future for your child by securing the best results. Call (888) 493-1629 today.

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