Objective: Renal scarring and renal failure remain life-threatening for children born with spinal dysraphism. We reviewed our data of spina bifida patients to evaluate whether optimal treatment of the neurogenic bladder from birth onwards can preserve kidney function.
Methods: We reviewed data on all newborns with spinal dysraphism who were referred to our hospital between January 1988 and June 2001. We looked at their situations at referral and at follow-up: the type of treatment, antimuscarinic agents, clean intermittent catheterisation (CIC), antibiotic prophylaxis, and operations (sling procedures, bladder augmentations, antireflux procedures). Renal function (ultrasound, DMSA scan, serum creatinin, creatinin clearance) and bladder function (urodynamic studies) were evaluated over time.
Results: Data of 144 children of 176 could be evaluated by the end of the study: 5 patients had pre-existing renal abnormalities, 69 had an overactive sphincter, 27 had reflux, and six had renal scarring. None are currently developing end-stage renal disease. All patients with spina bifida aperta started CIC and antimuscarinic therapy shortly after birth. Five of the six patients with renal scarring were started on therapy with intermittent catheterisation and antimuscarinic therapy several months after birth. Sixty-three of 82 children with spina bifida were dry at school age (age six), although 37 of these had not had an operation.
Conclusion: We show that an early start to therapy helps to safeguard renal function for children born with spina bifida. Our data support other recent reports that children born with spina bifida can probably use their own kidneys for a lifetime, if they are given adequate urological treatment. To protect the upper urinary tract, we need to ensure low intravesical pressure by starting children early on CIC (the preferred treatment); antimuscarinic agents to counteract detrusor instability are indispensable in most cases. Proactive treatment of risks for upper tract deterioration results in a negligible loss of renal function, even when early urinary continence is included in the treatment protocol.