Spina Bifida: A Major Public Health Burden In Maharashtra

Spina Bifida: A Major Public Health Burden In Maharashtra

Spina Bifidi can happen anywhere along the spine and is usually seen as a hole in the baby’s back when they are born. Sometimes, it can be a sac filled with fluid sticking out from the spine, which may or may not have the spinal cord inside

Swapnil MishraUpdated: Thursday, January 11, 2024, 10:39 PM IST
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Mumbai: Parents of nine-year-old Master Lavesh had the shock of their life when they came to know that their child had spina bifida. The family took him to various doctors for treatment, but they were unable to help him.

Finally, the mother contacted the Spina Bifida Foundation and was selected for their Incontinence Surgeries (Bladder Augmentation, BNR Mitrofanoff and MACE).

“We couldn’t believe when doctors informed us that my son is born with a birth defect for which he needs to undergo surgery. We couldn’t afford the surgery as our monthly income was only Rs20,000. Meanwhile, we got to now about the Spina Bifidi Foundation, which provides treatment to those born with such birth defect and we admitted our son to Lilavati Hospital where he underwent successful back closure surgery,” Master Lavesh’s father said.

Four to five cases of spina bifida reported per 1000 live births

According to the doctors, spina bifida cases have become a major public health burden in Maharashtra and across India, with an alarming four to five cases reported per 1000 live births. Currently two to three patients are undergoing treatment for the congenital birth defect at Lilavati Hospital.

Spina Bifidi can happen anywhere along the spine and is usually seen as a hole in the baby’s back when they are born. Sometimes, it can be a sac filled with fluid sticking out from the spine, which may or may not have the spinal cord inside.

Dr Santosh Karmarkar, a paediatric surgeon at Lilavati, pointed out that approximately 70% of the patients do not get the required treatment due to lack of awareness or financial constraints.

Medical professionals call for proactive measures

“Medical professionals are calling for proactive measures to address this issue and stress the importance of tackling the root causes of spina bifida. We plan to establish a state-of-the-art fetal surgery centre in Mumbai dedicated to performing complex in-utero surgeries,” he said.

Dr Karmarkar emphasised the role of folic acid in reducing the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida in unborn babies.

“The use of prenatal vitamins containing folic acid are often recommended by healthcare professionals. By taking these supplements, women can further mitigate the risk of neural tube defects in their future offspring,” he said.

Lt Gen (Dr) V Ravishankar, consultant cardiovascular surgeon and chief operating officer at Lilavati, highlighted the hospital’s role as a referral centre for high-risk surgeries. He emphasised the need to raise awareness about spina bifida.

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