What Are the Different Types of Spina Bifida?

There are four types of spina bifida: occulta, closed neural tube defects, meningocele, and myelomeningocele.

  • Occulta is the mildest and most common form. With occulta one or more vertebrae (bones that make up the spine) are not properly formed. The name “occulta,” meaning “hidden,” means that the malformation, or opening in the spine, is covered by a layer of skin. This form of spina bifida does not usually causes disability or symptoms.
  • Closed neural tube defects are the second type of spina bifida. This form consists of a group of spinal defects in which the spinal cord is marked by a malformation of fat, bone or membranes. In some patients there are few or no symptoms; in others the malformation causes partial paralysis with urinary and bowel problems.
  • In the third type, meningocele, the meninges (protective coverings around the spine) push out from the spinal opening, and may or may not be covered by a layer of skin. Some patients with meningocele may have few or no symptoms. Others may experience symptoms that are similar to closed neural tube defects.
  • Myelomeningocele, the fourth form, is the most severe. This occurs when the spinal cord shows through the opening in the spine resulting in partial or complete paralysis of the parts of the body below the spinal opening. The paralysis may be so severe that the patient with this type of spina bifida is unable to walk and may have urinary and bowel dysfunction.

Find Support

What can I expect now that my child has been diagnosed with spina bifida?

Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to fellow parents, caregivers, and experts about the challenges facing your child.



Mayo Clinic
Types of Spina Bifida