Between 1963 and 1970, 117 consecutive cases of open spina bifida were treated unselectively from birth, following a full neurological examination. The author reviews the outcome 16 to 20 years later. 48 died before their sixteenth birthday. Of the 69 survivors, 60 had had a shunt inserted and two were blind following shunt dysfunction; 22 were mentally retarded (IQ less than 80); 35 were wheelchair-dependent; 52 were incontinent, and 32 of these continued to need help with its management; nine weighed greater than 75 kg; one-third of both sexes had a precocious puberty; three had insulin-dependent diabetes; 12 continued to need anticonvulsant drugs; 32 had suffered from pressure sores; 33 were unable to live without help or supervision and only 17 were capable of open employment. These findings demonstrate the wide range of disabilities implied by the diagnosis of open spina bifida. The neurological findings recorded at birth were reflected in the mortality and disability of the survivors. The sensory level represented a yardstick for predicting the likely range of handicap into adult life, provided no additional impairment resulted from serious complications: such damage occurred in seven of the survivors.