This study summarises the long-term results of non-selective treatment of open spina bifida. Every member of a consecutive series of 117 cases was ascertained 22 to 28 years after closure of the back. 56 of the cohort had died. The condition of the 61 survivors ranged from normal to severe disability. Only 33 of the survivors were capable of living independently, 11 required supervision and some help, and 17 needed daily care which was generally provided by the parents. The two main determinants of disability and dependency were the extent of the neurological deficit and IQ. Improvements in the management of patients with open spina bifida have greatly reduced mortality, but they are less likely to influence long-term disability since that is dependent on the severity of the neurological deficit.