Spina Bifida / Myelomeningocele / Neurogenic bladder

Doernbecher pediatric urologists and a nurse practitioner are part of the Spina Bifida program of the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center (CDRC) at Doernbecher.

Doernbecher offers the only Spina Bifida program in Oregon. The program provides comprehensive medical and social support for the treatment of infants, children and adolescents with spina bifida and other spinal birth defects involving exposed vertebrae.

Our goals for your child include:

  • Protect the kidneys
  • Attain urine continence
  • Help your child to become as independent as possible with a urologic routine

Read more at the OHSU Child Development & Rehabilitation Center Spina Bifida page

General information

How does Spina Bifida affect my baby’s bladder?
Children born with Spina Bifida are almost always found to have a neurogenic bladder. This is because the nerves in the spinal cord that control the bladder did not form properly. This means that the bladder will have trouble storing urine in the bladder, emptying the bladder, or both.

Almost all children with Spina Bifida require lifelong clean intermittent catheterization (see below) to protect their bladder, prevent urinary tract infection and allow them to wear underwear. Many children with Spina Bifida also require a medicine for their bladder called an anticholinergic that will help relax their bladder so that it may store more urine and protect the kidneys.

What types of kidney and bladder tests will my child need?
After your child is born and discharged from the hospital, he or she will undergo a urodynamic evaluation. This test will be performed periodically to evaluate how your child’s bladder is functioning and to determine if we are managing the bladder appropriately. Please refer to the section on Urodynamic Evaluation for more information.

Children born with Spina Bifida also undergo regular ultrasounds of their kidneys and bladder to help make sure the bladder is being treated sufficiently and the kidneys appear healthy.

Will my child require bladder surgery?
Many children with Spina Bifida have a poorly functioning bladder, or a bladder that does not grow with them. When clean intermittent catheterization and bladder medicine is not enough, some of these children may eventually require a bladder augmentation. This is an operation that uses a piece of the intestine to make the bladder bigger.

What is Clean Intermittent Catheterization (CIC) of the bladder?
CIC means the periodic insertion of a hollow plastic tube (catheter) into the urethra, past the sphincter muscle and into the bladder. Because the catheter is hollow, urine will flow through it and the bladder will empty. It must be done at regular intervals, and it is best if done on a set schedule each day.

For more information about Spina Bifida and Urologic care, please visit the Spina Bifida Association.

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