Lipomeningocele Description Lipomeningocele is a type of neural tube defect. Neural tube defects are a group of birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. Other neural tube defects include spina bifida, spina bifida occulta, and occult spinal dysraphism. Lipomeningocele occurs when part of the spinal cord protrudes (sticks out) of the spinal column and forms a sac under the skin. Because the spinal cord does not close completely and because the spinal cord attaches itself to the tissues of the back, the nerves of the spinal canal can be damaged. This can result in a variety of health and developmental issues. Causes of Lipomeningocele The exact causes of neural tube defects are not known. Getting enough folic acid, a type of B vitamin, before and during pregnancy can help to prevent neural tube defects. Mothers who are obese, have poorly controlled diabetes, and mothers who take certain anti-seizure medicines are at more risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect. Diagnosis Lipomeningocele can sometimes be detected before birth by ultrasound. More often, however, lipomeningocele is found when children have neurologic symptoms during the early years of life. Some children with lipomeningocele have skin symptoms such as a fat collection in the lower back, a hairy patch, or a dimple above the buttocks. Treatment The entire lipoma is not usually removed. Rather, a neurosurgeon works to “untether” the spinal cord. This means to detach the spinal cord from the tissues of the back. The goal of this is to reduce stretching or pulling on the spinal cord that happens when the child grows. How Many People Have Lipomeningocele Lipomeningocele is rare. It affects about 1 of every 50,000 babies. Associated Developmental and Learning Issues Movement/mobility difficulties: Most children with lipomeningocele walk well. Some children need the assistance of a walker. Communication difficulties: Some children with lipomeningocele develop speech skills later than other children their age. Learning: Some children with lipomeningocele have learning disabilities. Associated Medical Conditions Some children with lipomeningocele have other health complications. It is important that these are recognized and treated. A child with lipomeningocele who is physically healthy is more likely to do well in school and in other treatments. This contributes to more independence, better daily functioning, and better quality of life. Common health issues for children with lipomeningocele include: Bladder control problems Kidney problems, including infections and hydronephrosis Bowel control problems Spine issues including spinal cord tethering Bone and muscle problems such as scoliosis Gastrointestinal issues including constipation Skin breakdown Growth and nutrition problems, obesity Lipomeningocele itself does not get worse over time. However, how it affects a person may be different at different points in the person’s life. Symptoms like bowel and bladder control and muscle and bone problems can bet better, worse, or stay the same during the course of a person’s life. Although lipomeningocele is not "curable" in the usual sense, treatment can help improve function and prevent complications.