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Neural Tube Defects (NTDs): Overview

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Neural tube defects are birth defects that can occur early in pregnancy when the spinal cord, brain, and related structures do not form properly. Several types of neural tube defects exist, including spina bifida and anencephaly (having little or no brain matter). Since the NICHD was founded, one of its main focuses has been on understanding the causes of birth defects like these, as well as their treatment and prevention. 

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Common Names

  • Neural tube defects
  • Spina bifida
  • Cleft spine
  • Open spine

Medical or Scientific Names

  • Neural tube defects
  • Spina bifida
  • Spina bifida occulta
  • Meningocele
  • Myelomeningocele
  • Anencephaly
  • Encephalocele
  • Iniencephaly
BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research