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Fetal Diagn Ther. 2011;30(3):174-9. doi: 10.1159/000330048. Epub 2011 Sep 8.

Preschool neurobehavioral outcome following fetal myelomeningocele surgery.

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  • 1Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4388, USA.



It was the aim of this study to assess the prevalence of preschool neurobehavioral problems in children following fetal myelomeningocele (fMMC) surgery.


Prior to the Management of Myelomeningocele Study, 30 fMMC patients underwent a standardized neurodevelopmental examination at 5 years of age. The prevalence of behavioral problems was assessed by the Child Behavior Check List (CBCL), which includes a total problem score and 2 broad-band indices (internalizing and externalizing problems). fMMC children were classified as having normal, at-risk or clinically significant scores based on calculated T scores.


Twenty-two (73%) fMMC families completed the evaluation. Mean age at delivery following fMMC surgery was 35.5 ± 1.6 weeks. The prevalence of 'at-risk' or 'clinically significant' scores for internalizing, externalizing and total behavioral problems was similar to general population norms. No difference in overall internalizing (p = 0.19), externalizing (p = 0.54) and total behavioral (p = 0.18) scores was found between non-shunted and shunted fMMC children. However, shunted fMMC children were more likely to experience anxiety and depressive (p = 0.02), pervasive developmental (p = 0.03) and withdrawn (p = 0.06) behavior. Oppositional defiant, attention deficit and hyperactivity problems were not found. No correlation was found between overall neurodevelopmental outcome and abnormal CBCL scores.


fMMC surgery and subsequent preterm delivery is not associated with increased behavioral problems, impaired social interactions and restricted behavior patterns. Shunted fMMC children were more likely to have scores in the 'at-risk' or 'clinically significant' range for multiple CBCL subindices. Early detection of behavioral problems following fMMC surgery provides an opportunity for targeted and timely intervention enabling affected fMMC children to be socially successful.

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