Prevalence of neural tube defects among pregnant women in Addis Ababa: a community-based study using prenatal ultrasound examination

Childs Nerv Syst. 2023 Sep;39(9):2423-2431. doi: 10.1007/s00381-023-05901-8. Epub 2023 Mar 3.


Purpose: The primary aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of NTDs at ultrasound examination in communities of Addis Ababa and secondarily to provide a description of the dysmorphology of the NTD cases.

Methods: We enrolled 958 pregnant women from 20 randomly selected health centers in Addis Ababa during the period from October 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019. Of these 958 women, 891 had an ultrasound examination after enrollment, with a special focus on NTDs. We estimated the prevalence of NTDs and compared it with previously reported hospital-based birth prevalence estimates from Addis Ababa.

Results: Among 891 women, 13 had twin pregnancies. We identified 15 NTD cases among 904 fetuses, corresponding to an ultrasound-based prevalence of 166 per 10,000 (95% CI: 100-274). There were no NTD cases among the 26 twins. Eleven had spina bifida (122 per 10,000, 95% CI: 67-219). Among the 11 fetuses with spina bifida, three had a cervical and one had a thoracolumbar defect while the anatomical site for 7 was not registered. Seven of the 11 spina bifida defects had skin covering, while two of the cervical lesions were uncovered.

Conclusion: We report a high prevalence of NTDs among pregnancies in communities of Addis Ababa based on screening by ultrasound. The prevalence was higher than in previous hospital-based studies in Addis, and the prevalence of spina bifida was particularly high.

Keywords: Dysmorphology; Neural tube defect; Prenatal ultrasound; Ultrasound prevalence.

MeSH terms

  • Ethiopia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neural Tube Defects* / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Tube Defects* / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women
  • Prevalence
  • Spinal Dysraphism* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Dysraphism* / epidemiology
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal