Myelomeningocele sac associated with worse lower-extremity neurological sequelae: evidence for prenatal neural stretch injury?

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Jun;55(6):740-746. doi: 10.1002/uog.21891.


Objective: To determine whether the presence of a myelomeningocele (MMC) sac and sac size correlate with compromised lower-extremity function in fetuses with open spinal dysraphism.

Methods: A radiology database search was performed to identify cases of MMC and myeloschisis (MS) diagnosed prenatally in a single center from 2013 to 2017. All cases were evaluated between 18 and 25 weeks. Ultrasound reports were reviewed for talipes and impaired lower-extremity motion. In MMC cases, sac volume was calculated from ultrasound measurements. Magnetic resonance imaging reports were reviewed for hindbrain herniation. The association of presence of a MMC sac and sac size with talipes and impaired lower-extremity motion was assessed. Post-hoc analysis of data from the multicenter Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) randomized controlled trial was performed to confirm the study findings.

Results: In total, 283 MMC and 121 MS cases were identified. MMC was associated with a lower incidence of hindbrain herniation than was MS (80.9% vs 100%; P < 0.001). Compared with MS cases, MMC cases with hindbrain herniation had a higher rate of talipes (28.4% vs 16.5%, P = 0.02) and of talipes or lower-extremity impairment (34.9% vs 19.0%, P = 0.002). Although there was a higher rate of impaired lower-extremity motion alone in MMC cases with hindbrain herniation than in MS cases, the difference was not statistically significant (6.6% vs 2.5%; P = 0.13). Among MMC cases with hindbrain herniation, mean sac volume was higher in those associated with talipes compared with those without talipes (4.7 ± 4.2 vs 3.0 ± 2.6 mL; P = 0.002). Review of the MOMS data demonstrated similar findings; cases with a sac on baseline imaging had a higher incidence of talipes than did those without a sac (28.2% vs 7.5%; P = 0.007).

Conclusions: In fetuses with open spinal dysraphism, the presence of a MMC sac was associated with fetal talipes, and this effect was correlated with sac size. The presence of a larger sac in fetuses with open spinal dysraphism may result in additional injury through mechanical stretching of the nerves, suggesting another acquired mechanism of injury to the exposed spinal tissue. Copyright © 2019 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords: clubfoot deformity; fetal MRI; fetal surgery; myelomeningocele; myeloschisis; obstetrical ultrasound; spina bifida; talipes.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity Deformities, Congenital / diagnostic imaging
  • Lower Extremity Deformities, Congenital / embryology*
  • Meningomyelocele / complications
  • Meningomyelocele / diagnostic imaging
  • Meningomyelocele / embryology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Prenatal Injuries / etiology*
  • Spinal Dysraphism / complications
  • Spinal Dysraphism / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Dysraphism / embryology*
  • Talipes / congenital
  • Talipes / diagnostic imaging
  • Talipes / embryology*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal