Treatment of newborns with myelodysplasia (meningomyelocele and related disorders) continues to be a controversial subject. We have used a consistent plan of care and have employed the same prognostic criteria over the period from 1965 to 1982 to address the needs of 212 affected newborns. A good prognosis and early surgical care were given to 42 per cent of 53 newborns during the period 1965 to 1970, to 58 per cent of 65 newborns from 1971 to 1976, and to 71 per cent of 94 newborns from 1977 to 1982. Of the newborns with an initially poor prognosis, 19 per cent of 31 received early surgery between 1965 and 1970, as compared with 33 per cent of 27 between 1971 and 1976 and 52 per cent of 27 between 1977 and 1982. Life-table analyses of survival in the three periods revealed significant improvement over time in the survival of newborns receiving early surgical care, regardless of the initial prognosis (log-rank statistic = 8.240, P = 0.016) and in comparison to recipients of supportive care alone (log-rank statistic = 5.975, P = 0.05). We conclude that early surgery permits the survival of an increasing percentage of patients with myelodysplasia.