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Daxa M. Patel, Brandon G. Rocque, Betsy Hopson, Anastasia Arynchyna, E. Ralee’ Bishop, David Lozano and Jeffrey P. Blount


A paucity of literature examines sleep apnea in patients with myelomeningocele, Chiari malformation Type II (CM-II), and related hydrocephalus. Even less is known about the effect of hydrocephalus treatment or CM-II decompression on sleep hygiene. This study is an exploratory analysis of sleep-disordered breathing in patients with myelomeningocele and the effects of neurosurgical treatments, in particular CM-II decompression and hydrocephalus management, on sleep organization.


The authors performed a retrospective review of all patients seen in their multidisciplinary spina bifida clinic (approximately 435 patients with myelomeningocele) to evaluate polysomnographs obtained between March 1999 and July 2013. They analyzed symptoms prompting evaluation, results, and recommended interventions by using descriptive statistics. They also conducted a subset analysis of 9 children who had undergone polysomnography both before and after neurosurgical intervention.


Fifty-two patients had polysomnographs available for review. Sleep apnea was diagnosed in 81% of these patients. The most common presenting symptom was “breathing difficulties” (18 cases [43%]). Mild sleep apnea was present in 26 cases (50%), moderate in 10 (19%), and severe in 6 (12%). Among the 42 patients with abnormal sleep architecture, 30 had predominantly obstructive apneas and 12 had predominantly central apneas. The most common pulmonology-recommended intervention was adjustment of peripheral oxygen supplementation (24 cases [57%]), followed by initiation of peripheral oxygen (10 cases [24%]).

In a subset analysis of 9 patients who had sleep studies before and after neurosurgical intervention, there was a trend toward a decrease in the mean number of respiratory events (from 34.8 to 15.9, p = 0.098), obstructive events (from 14.7 to 13.9, p = 0.85), and central events (from 20.1 to 2.25, p = 0.15) and in the apnea-hypopnea index (from 5.05 to 2.03, p = 0.038, not significant when corrected for multiple measures).


A large proportion of patients with myelomeningocele who had undergone polysomnography showed evidence of disordered sleep on an initial study. Furthermore, 31% of patients had moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea. Myelomeningocele patients with an abnormal sleep structure who had undergone nonoperative treatment with peripheral oxygen supplementation showed improvement in the apnea-hypopnea index. Results in this study suggested that polysomnography in patients with myelomeningocele may present an opportunity to detect and classify sleep apnea, identify low-risk interventions, and prevent future implications of sleep-disordered breathing.

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Dagoberto Estevez-Ordonez, Matthew C. Davis, Betsy Hopson, MSHA, Anastasia Arynchyna, Brandon G. Rocque, Graham Fieggen, Gail Rosseau, Godfrey Oakley, MSPM and Jeffrey P. Blount

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are one of the greatest causes of childhood mortality and disability-adjusted life years worldwide. Global prevalence at birth is approximately 18.6 per 10,000 live births, with more than 300,000 infants with NTDs born every year. Substantial strides have been made in understanding the genetics, pathophysiology, and surgical treatment of NTDs, yet the natural history remains one of high morbidity and profound impairment of quality of life. Direct and indirect costs of care are enormous, which ensures profound inequities and disparities in the burden of disease in countries of low and moderate resources. All indices of disease burden are higher for NTDs in developing countries. The great tragedy is that the majority of NTDs can be prevented with folate fortification of commercially produced food. Unequivocal evidence of the effectiveness of folate to reduce the incidence of NTDs has existed for more than 25 years. Yet, the most comprehensive surveys of effectiveness of implementation strategies show that more than 100 countries fail to fortify, and consequently only 13% of folate-preventable spina bifida is actually prevented. Neurosurgeons harbor a disproportionate, central, and fundamental role in the management of NTDs and enjoy high standing in society. No organized group in medicine can speak as authoritatively or convincingly. As a result, neurosurgeons and organized neurosurgery harbor disproportionate potential to advocate for more comprehensive folate fortification, and thereby prevent the most common and severe birth defect to impact the human nervous system. Assertive, proactive, informed advocacy for folate fortification should be a central and integral part of the neurosurgical approach to NTDs. Only by making the prevention of dysraphism a priority can we best address the inequities often observed worldwide.