The key difference between meningocele and meningomyelocele is that meningocele does not involve any under-development of nerves forming protrusions while meningomyelocele involves the under-development of nerves, also resulting in protrusions.
Spina bifida is one of the most common inborn disorders associated with errors in the development of the fetus’s spinal cord. This is usually detected in the first month of the pregnancy, and it is characterized by the protrusions formed in the spine and gets more apparent at the time of birth. There are many types of spina bifida, including meningocele, meningomyelocele, and Spina bifida occulta.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Meningocele
3. What is Meningomyelocele
4. Similarities – Meningocele and Meningomyelocele
5. Meningocele vs Meningomyelocele in Tabular Form
6. Summary – Meningocele vs Meningomyelocele
What is Meningocele?
Meningocele is a type of spina bifida where the meninges protrude through the opening, resulting in a lump in the back. Meningocele is also sometimes characterized by a sac-like appearance in the back. It is a birth defect. This type of spina bifida is the least common type. However, since the nervous system does not incur any damage, the risk of any long-term complication is less despite rare complications such as tethered cord. The main positive fact about meningocele is that the newborn will not suffer from any neurological problems.
The immediate cause of meningocele is teratoma and the presence of other tumors of the sacrococcyx and at the presacral space. Furthermore, Currarino syndrome may also lead to the development of meningocele. In addition, meningocele may also occur at the base of the skull or the root of the nasal cavity. The condition can be treated with surgery.
What is Meningomyelocele?
Meningomyelocele is the most severe form of spina bifida. The condition is characterized by the under-development of the spinal cord. As a result, the underdeveloped spinal cord protrudes at the back. In this condition, a sac containing the cerebrospinal fluid and blood vessels surrounds the protruding cord at the back. In meningomyelocele, the nerves and tissues are exposed.
This condition also happens at birth and is affected nearly once for every 1000 live births. These infants also carry other defects such as skull defects like hydrocephalus. This can be remedied by surgery. Furthermore, infants born with meningomyelocele also have problems such as paralysis, limb problems, bladder and bowel dysfunctions. Meningomyelocele may occur due to the effect of toxins that may act as calcium channel blockers, which include carbamazepine, cytochalasins and valproic acid.
What are the Similarities Between Meningocele and Meningomyelocele?
- Both are conditions that take place during the developmental phase.
- They are detected via ultrasound scanning.
- Both are types of spina bifida form protrusions in the back of the spinal cord /vertebrae.
- They may result in lump-like appearances.
- Both can be removed via surgeries.
- Infants resulting in both conditions may show varying levels of complications.
- Moreover, in both scenarios, the meninges protrude out.
What is the Difference Between Meningocele and Meningomyelocele?
Meningocele does not involve any nerve alteration; hence, the severity is mild. In comparison, meningomyelocele involves the under-development of nerves, increasing the severity of the condition. Thus, this is the key difference between meningocele and meningomyelocele. Furthermore, the effects and complications resulting from meningocele are much diminished compared to meningomyelocele, and in certain cases, the newborn may turn out to be completely paralyzed. Meningocele may arise due to tumors, while the main cause of meningomyelocele is toxins that block the normal formation of the spinal cord.
The below infographic presents the differences between meningocele and meningomyelocele in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Meningocele vs Meningomyelocele
Meningocele and meningomyelocele are two types of spina bifida characterized by meningeal protrusions forming in the spine. Meningocele does not involve nerves, while meningomyelocele results in the under-development of nerves as well. So, this is the key difference between meningocele and meningomyelocele. Both conditions can be remedied using surgery techniques. However, the complications given by each condition vary. While meningocele shows less severe outcomes, meningomyelocele shows many serious and long-term outcomes. This is the summary of the difference between meningocele and meningomyelocele.
1. Nethi, Shashanka. “Meningocele.” StatPearls. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Sept. 2021.
2. Sahni, Mitali. “Meningomyelocele.” StatPearls. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 Oct. 2021.
1. “1304 Spina BifidaN” By OpenStax – (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Meningomyelocele diagram” By Uvainio – Modified from  (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
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