Spina bifida (aperta) is often used as an inclusive name for various conditions associated with non-closure of the spine and a neurological deficit as a result of a defect in the spinal cord development. During the development of the foetus, the neural tube, which goes on to become the baby's spine, does not form properly. With spina bifida, the most common neural tube defect, one or more of the bones in the spine fails to develop properly and leaves a gap, meaning that the spinal cord and nerves are damaged. The defect is often in the lumbosacral area, but sometimes higher up in the spine.
Neural tube defects affects babies in different ways, but could mean a future of dependence on other people, the individual being unable to walk or control their bladder, for example. As a direct result of the spina bifida, hydrocephaly and positional foot defects often exist. Other malformation may also exist. Infants usually survive; hydrocephaly may lead to mental handicap.