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Orthopade. 2014 Jul;43(7):603-10. doi: 10.1007/s00132-013-2215-9.

[Orthopedic management of spina bifida].

[Article in German]

Author information

  • 1Univ. Klinik für Orthopädie, Medizinische Universität Innsbruck, Anichstr. 35, 6020, Innsbruck, Österreich,



Spina bifida is associated with congenital deformities, such as kyphosis, spinal malformations, teratological hip dislocations, clubfeet, vertical talus and also with acquired deformities due to muscle imbalance and impaired biomechanics. The degree of the acquired deformities and the mobility of the patient depend on the level of the spinal lesion.


Neurological symptoms are mostly asymmetric and there is an inconsistent correlation between the anatomical level of the lesion and muscle function. Deficits of sensation are usually one to two levels lower than the motor level. An exact neurological diagnosis should not be made before the second or third year of life and an early prognosis about walking ability should be avoided. The level L3 and therefore function of the quadriceps is a functional milestone after which modified independent ambulation with the use of ankle foot orthoses (AFO) and crutches is possible.


The basic principle is to support verticalization and gait even when loss of ambulation is later expected. It is also important to support and maintain sitting ability for high lesions, if necessary with correction of the spinal deformity. Findings in gait analysis have shifted the focus of treatment from radiological criteria to functional improvement, thus maintenance of the flexibility of the hip is the main goal of hip surgery. Reduction of the hip often leads to stiffness and has a high redislocation rate. Clubfoot deformities should be treated early and foot arthrodesis and stiffness have to be avoided. Another focus is the prevention of joint contracture by early prophylactic treatment.


The purpose of management is to maximize the functional potential of the child. Subjective well-being, absence of pain, mobility and socialization are the main goals. This does not necessarily imply ambulation; nevertheless, verticalization and associated orthotic management is one major objective of the orthopedic management of spina bifida.

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