Glossary term:

Spinal dysraphism

The word raphe means a seam, such as we see on a garment. It is used figuratively, in anatomy and embryology, to refer to the formation of the neural tube. This structure forms from a strip of tissue running down the back of the embryo, which then “zips-up” along the back, in the midline. The bony skeletal elements then form over the surface of the neural tube. If the “zipping-up” is not completed then the anatomical abnormalities of spina bifida develop, to varying degrees in different cases. The terms spina bifida and spinal dysraphism are, to all intents and purposes, interchangeable.