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What Is Lipomyelomeningocele?

A lipomyelomeningocele

A lipomyelomeningocele that can invade the spinal cord and cause weakness and bladder problems.

A lipomyelomeningocele (pronounced lipo-my-elo-men-IN-go-seal) is a rare birth defect. It affects a child’s backbone (spine).

A lipomyelomeningocele is a fatty mass that is located under the skin on the child’s back. It is usually located in the middle of the back. The mass goes inward to the spinal canal. A lipomyelomeningocele is covered in skin. You can usually see it on the outside of the child's body. It looks like a large lump.

The two biggest problems that develop with lipomyelomeningocele in children are:

  • The spinal cord gets stuck (fixed) to the fatty mass.
  • The fatty mass puts pressure on the spinal cord.

Lipomyelomeningocele in Children

Lipomyelomeningoceles are present when a baby is born (congenital). It is a rare defect. Lipomyelomeningoceles only happens in one to two of every 10,000 babies born. The problem is slightly more common in girls.

Babies develop lipomyelomeningoceles early in their mother’s pregnancy — during the fourth to sixth week. The problem has no known cause. Unlike a myelomeningocele, the genes a baby inherits don't play a role in the development of a lipomyelomeningocele. It is not caused by mothers getting too little folic acid during pregnancy.

Lipomyelomeningocele at Seattle Children’s

We have extensive experience caring for babies and children with lipomyelomeningoceles.

Children with this condition often have complex problems that need special care. At Seattle Children's, we bring many experts together in one clinic to treat your child. Neurosurgery is one part of our team.

Doctors outside of Seattle Children's refer about five to 10 infants with a lipomyelomeningocele to us each year. Our neurosurgeons have a great deal of experience closing and repairing lipomyelomeningoceles. We use the latest and best neuromonitoring equipment during your child's surgery.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

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Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

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Download Summer 2014 (PDF)