A "birth defect" is a health problem or physical change that is present in a baby at birth. Birth defects may be very mild, where the baby looks and acts like any other baby, or they may be very severe, where a health problem is immediately apparent.
Some birth defects can be life-threatening, causing the baby to live only a few months, or to die at a young age (in their teens, for example). Most defects occur due to environmental and genetic factors, but often the cause is unknown.
Spina bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect. During fetal development, the spine doesn't close properly, and the child is born with part of the spinal cord exposed. Corrective surgery is now typically done within the first 48 hours after birth.
Excess fluid on the brain is call hydrocephalus. Pediatric neurosurgeons at Batson Children's Hospital can remove the source of fluid obstruction or implant a shunt to divert the fluid away from the brain and/or to relieve pressure in the head or neck. An alternative surgery uses a tiny camera to let the surgeon see inside the brain area and create a new pathway for fluid to flow.
Tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column can cause an abnormal stretching of the spinal cord and possible loss of neurologic function. Tethered spinal cord syndrome is closely linked to spina bifida, but may also develop after spinal cord injury when scar tissue blocks the flow of fluids around the spinal cord. Early surgery is often recommended to prevent further neurological damage
There is no known cause for Sturge-Weber syndrome (encephelotrigeminal angiomatosis), a rare disorder characterized by a facial "port wine" birthmark, neurological abnormalities, cerebral malformations, tumors, and glaucoma. Other symptoms can include irregular formation of the eye and internal organs. Excessive blood vessels also can grow on the brain and affect brain function, prompting seizures and developmental delays. Laser treatments can lighten port wine stains, and medications may help relieve some symptoms. Surgery is frequently needed to manage seizures and correct eye problems.
Each patient is unique with symptoms of varying degrees.