Spina Bifida (Latin: "split spine") is a birth defect where the developing vertebrate, the neural tube, does not fully close before birth.
This results in an unfused neural canal, exposing the spinal cord which protrudes from the gap in the neural canal thereby causing a threat of damage to the spinal cord which will result in paralysis.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ii_v3t9hpU)

external image Meningomyelocele_diagram.jpg
external image Atlasbogenspalt.jpg
Spina Bifida in the lumbar area
(1) External sac with cerebrospinal fluid
(2) Spinal cord wedged between the vertebrae
Unfused neural canal

There are three degrees of sevarities in Spina Bifida: where the splits in the vertebrae is small and spinal cord does not protude (mildest form), where the vertebrae develops normally but the meninges are forced into a gap between the vertebrae (least common form) and the most common and severe form where the spinal cord is able to protrude from the unfused neural canal.

There are many signs and symptoms of which some are physical complications which include leg weakness and paralysis, skeletal deformities (eg: Club Foot or hip dislocation), bladder and bowel control problems and latex allergy.

Spina Bifida has neither a specific cause nor a treatment to prevent it, however, a diet including 0.4 mg/day of folic acid (found from sources such as whole grains, dried beans and leaf vegetables) is recomended to women which should start at least three months before conception and should be maintained for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in order to reduce the likelyhood.
There is no known way to cure nerve damage caused by Spina Bifida but surgical procedures can be taken to prevent severe nervous tissue damage which include operating to close the gap in the spine and placing the spinal cord and nerve roots back inside the spine.


The prognosis for those suffering from Spina Bifida depends on the number of complications and is poorest for those with complete paralysis, hydrocephalus (excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain) and other abnormalities present at birth. With proper care, most children with live well into adulthood.

References
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spina_bifida
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002525/
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/spina_bifida/spina_bifida.htm