Myelomeningocele before birth

J Neurosurg. 1978 Nov;49(5):711-24. doi: 10.3171/jns.1978.49.5.0711.


The authors report a study of 92 human embryos and four fetuses with myeloschisis. The characteristics of embryonic myeloschisis compared with spina bifida cystica in infants are: 1) the lesion is often more diffuse, involving the whole spinal cord (12 embryos); 2) the cervical cord is frequently affected (23 of the remaining 80 embryos); 3) holoprosencephaly is frequently associated (18 embryos); 4) meningocele is not found; and 5) hydrocephalus and Arnold-Chiari malformation are not yet developed. Hydrocephalus and Arnold-Chiari malformation are found in myeloschistic fetuses. Almost all embryos with diffuse and cervical myeloschisis or with holoprosencephaly are extruded before birth by spontaneous abortion. Absence of meningocele in the embryonic period implies that its appearance is deferred to the fetal period. The development of hydrocephalus and Arnold-Chiari malformation also seems to be delayed until the fetal period. Our observation implies that myelomeningocele is induced by non-closure of the neural tube, not by rupture once it was closed. "Neural overgrowth" and disturbed "recanalization process" are discussed in relation to the pathogenesis of myelomeningocele.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / embryology
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / embryology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / embryology
  • Meningocele / embryology
  • Meningomyelocele / embryology*
  • Neural Tube Defects / embryology
  • Spinal Cord / embryology