The authors reviewed 20 years’ experience with the surgical management of open myelomeningocele in a well-defined retrospective cohort from a single large academic medical center. Their goal was to define the characteristics of a modern cohort of children with myelomeningocele to allow for evidence-based decision-making for the treatment of these patients.
After IRB approval was obtained, the authors queried an operative database maintained by the Department of Neurological Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for patients who underwent closure of a myelomeningocele between 1995 and 2015. They identified 153 infants, and a retrospective chart review was performed.
Eighty-eight percent of the patients required placement of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, and 15% of these patients acquired shunt-related infections. Eighteen percent of patients underwent Chiari malformation type II (CM-II) decompression. Sixteen percent of patients underwent a tethered cord release. Three percent of patients died within the 1st year of life. Predictors of an early demise included poor Apgar scores, large head circumference, and need for early CM-II decompression. Functional motor outcome was slightly better than predicted by anatomical level of defect.
Myelomeningoceles represent a severe birth defect with life-threatening complications. The authors provide long-term follow-up data and insight into factors that contribute to early death.