Spina Bifida Occulta

Q: How can I get help for symptomatic SBO when my doctor says that it does not cause pain?

A: SBO is a minor deformity of one or two vertebrae that doesn’t get much attention, yet it can significantly decrease quality of life for some people who suffer from pain or neurological problems associated with it. In such cases, SBO is a more serious problem and requires a thorough neurosurgical assessment of the patient's symptoms, and an MRI scan. Treatment recommendations can be made after all information is considered.

Q: I was recently diagnosed with SBO during x-rays for an unrelated problem. Should I change my activities in order to protect my spine from now on?

A: If SBO is an incidental finding during a back X-ray, and is not symptomatic, then there is usually no health concern unless it is accompanied by pain or other neurologic symptoms. Approximately 10% or more of the adult population have SBO and never know about it because it does not affect their lives. Such people do not need to reduce normal activities or seek medical care for SBO.

For more information, review SBA’s health information sheet on Spina Bifida Occulta.