Quality of life in a 61-year-old paraplegic patient with myelomeningocele: Illustrative case

Alissa Borowsky, Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science, North Chicago,Illinois; and.
John R. Ruge, Advocate Aurora Health

Advocate Lutheran General Hospital


Background: Limited data exist on survival of patients with myelomeningocele (MM) into late adulthood. Patients born prior to 1975 received less surgical treatment and demonstrated poorer survival. Patients born after 1975 show lower mortality rates because of advancements in prenatal care, diagnostics, technology, and treatment. The increasing number of adult patients with MM demonstrates these successes but also highlights the need for a better understanding of both medical management and quality-of-life issues in this population.

Observations: A 61-year-old woman presented to the hospital with a functional level T12, vertebral level low lumbar MM that had developed a tissue defect with a cerebrospinal fluid leak. The patient had her MM closed at birth and since then had received no additional surgical treatment or repair of her MM defect. After successful treatment, the patient continues to follow up for additional decompression procedures and admits to a good quality of life.

Lessons: This case adds to the limited literature describing management of patients with MM over the age of 60. The patient's self-described good quality of life and longevity align with reports of importance of independence, level of education, bowel management, ability to provide self-care, strong interpersonal relationships, and absence of shunted hydrocephalus.