What is Dysraphism?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2018
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Dysraphism is a condition in which the neural folds around the sternum and the spine do not close properly. The condition can be found in both children and adults, and can even manifest itself among animals, such as dogs. There are several different forms, with occult spinal and sternal dysraphism being among the most common.

An individual suffering with some type of occult dysraphism may not exhibit any outward symptoms at all. However, it is not unusual for symptoms to begin emerging as the individual ages. Indications may be barely noticeable at first, such as a slight dimple just underneath the surface of the skin. Over time, pain may develop in the legs. The sensation is likely to feel somewhat like tingling at first, but will progress to a sense of discomfort that appears to be emanating from deep in the bones. At the same time, the individual may begin to notice the development of jerky movements that take place when walking or even when in a sitting position. Numbness in the legs and feet may also develop as the condition worsens.


Depending on the exact location of the dysraphism along the spine, there is also some chance that bladder and bowel functions will be impacted. This is true with children as well as with adults. Often, the impact leads to an incomplete voiding of the bladder, the bowels, or both. In fact, at first the treatment may focus on urinary tract infections, since they can develop as a direct result of the occult spinal dysraphism that is complicated with a tethered cord.

Sternal dysraphism also involves an abnormal split that is similar to that of the spinal version. Here, the sternum is found in the sternum itself, and may have been present at the time of birth, remaining undiagnosed until the child has grown. This type of condition can also arise as a result of the development of a hernia in the general area of the sternum.

Cranial dysraphism is another manifestation of this condition. This particular type involves a series of lesions that are accompanied with cysts, and found at various points within the skull. As with the other types of dyraphism, there may be no signs or symptoms at first, but eventually some neurological issues begin to appear, prompting the need for immediate attention before any permanent damage is done.

The scope of treatment for all types of dysraphism involve addressing the core issue as well as dealing with any pain or symptoms that have appeared. Often, surgery can help to correct the physical abnormality, and alleviate stress on any organs affected by the condition. At the same time, medication to help calm the symptoms and ease any distress are also an important part of the treatment process.



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