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Spina bifida--a vanishing nightmare?

Detailed analysis is presented on the dramatic decline in spina bifida births and other congenital central nervous system defects in the past 12 years, in both Sheffield and the rest of Great Britain. In Sheffield, there was an average of 20 spina bifida births per year up to 1972, but since then there has been a progressive fall to only one in 1984. This decrease may be partly attributable to antenatal diagnosis and terminations of affected pregnancies, but there is no known explanation for the rest of the fall, which has also been experienced throughout Great Britain. The virtual elimination of spina bifida is now possible, as long as the existing methods of prevention and antenatal diagnostic facilities are used even more fully. Relaxation of our effort and a reverse in the 'natural' trend could bring the incidence of spina bifida back to where it was 15 years ago.

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