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Open Access Research

Congenital myelomeningocele - do we have to change our management?

Steffi Mayer, Margit Weisser, Holger Till, Gerd Gräfe and Christian Geyer*

Author Affiliations

Department of Pediatric Surgery, University Hospital Leipzig, Liebigstrasse 20a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

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Cerebrospinal Fluid Research 2010, 7:17  doi:10.1186/1743-8454-7-17

Published: 14 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Eagerly awaiting the results of the Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) and with an increasing interest in setting up intrauterine myelomeningocele repair (IUMR), the optimal management of patients suffering from congenital myelomeningocele (MMC) has become a matter of debate again. We performed a cross-sectional study at our referral-center for MMC to determine the outcome for our expectantly managed patients.

Materials and methods

A computed chart review at our institution revealed 70 patients suffering from MMC. Forty-three patients were eligible for the study and analyzed further. A retrospective analysis was performed only in patients that underwent MMC repair within the first two days of life and were seen at our outpatient clinic between 2008 and 2009 for a regular multidisciplinary follow-up. Data were collected on: gestational age (GA) and weight at birth, age at shunt placement and shunt status after the first year of life, radiological evidence for Arnold-Chiari malformation (ACM) and tethered cord (TC), need for surgery for TC, bladder function, lower leg function and educational level. Data were compared to published results for IUMR and to studies of historical controls.

Results

Patients were born with MMC between 1979 and 2009 and are now 13.3 ± 8.9 (mean ± SD) years of age. At birth, mean GA was 37.8 ± 2.3 weeks and mean weight was 2921.3 ± 760.3 g, both significantly higher than in IUMR patients. Shunt placement in our cohort was required in 69.8% at a mean age of 16.0 ± 10.7 days, which was less frequent than for historical controls. Amongst our cohort, radiological observations showed 57.1% had ACM II and 41.9% had TC. Only two of our patients underwent a surgical correction for TC. Clean intermittent catheterization was performed in 69.7% of our patients, 56.4% were (assisted) walkers and 64.1% attended regular classes, both comparable to historical controls.

Conclusions

With a close and interdisciplinary management by pediatric surgeons, neurologists and urologists, the long-term outcome of patients suffering from MMC can currently be considered satisfactory. With respect to the known drawbacks of fetal interventions for mother and child, especially preterm delivery, the results of the MOMS trial should be awaited with caution before proceeding with a complex intervention like IUMR.