What Is A Sacral Dimple And Will It Affect My Child?
A sacral dimple is a small indentation or depression located at the base of your child’s spine. They are most common in children between birth and two years old. Most commonly they occur around the umbilicus (the tube that carries blood from the heart to the body) but some can appear anywhere along it. They may be tender, red, swollen, painful or even infected with worms. If left untreated, they can cause life threatening problems such as:
Perforations (holes) in the intestines (bowel system).
Infection of the lungs and other organs. Infections of the lungs and other organs. These infections will result in death if not treated promptly with antibiotics.
The symptoms of a sacral dimple vary depending on where it occurs. Sometimes there is no pain at all, sometimes the pain is intense and sometimes it causes vomiting. Other times the pain is milder than others and may not cause any symptoms at all.
However, if left untreated, a sacral dimple can become infected which could lead to severe complications including:
Peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane covering part of the abdomen).
Pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
The risk of developing these complications without treatment is high. If your child develops any of the symptoms listed above it is important that you seek emergency medical help immediately. If the infection has spread to the blood then the only way to save your child may be through surgery.
The sacral dimple is formed during the first trimester of pregnancy. The cause of this congenital abnormality is unknown. It occurs during the development of the embryo, when the fetus failed to develop a spinal column and suffers from a severe lack of oxygen.
The lack of oxygen causes the skin to develop in a sacral dimple rather than the normal curve.
Recent medical research has shown that sacral dimples are not as uncommon as once believed, occurring in about 1 out of every 200 births. They occur more frequently in males than females and they also occur more frequently in infants of African descent.
If it is left untreated, there is a chance your child may experience emotional trauma such as depression or social anxiety later in life. Generally though, cases of sacral dimples not being treated do not result in any long-term effects and are easily treated if medical treatment is sought early enough.
If you are worried that your child may be suffering from a sacral dimple it is important to seek medical attention immediately. If you are concerned about the cost of treatment, most health insurance policies cover the costs of this condition.
What are the causes of a sacral dimple?
The causes of a sacral dimple include:
Abnormal tissue growth during pregnancy.
Defect in the skeletal system.
Defect in the spinal cord.
Infection in the embryo.
Insufficient blood flow to the spinal cord.
Low levels of amniotic fluid during pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of a sacral dimple?
The symptoms of a sacral dimple include:
Difficulty maintaining balance.
Lack of pigmentation in the skin.
Low muscle tone.
Reduced lung capacity.
Severe pain in the abdomen.
It is important to remember that not all of these symptoms will be present in all sufferers of a sacral dimple. Also, some sufferers may experience a combination of symptoms listed above or their own unique set of symptoms.
How is a sacral dimple diagnosed?
A sacral dimple is usually diagnosed during the later stages of pregnancy by your doctor or midwife. The condition can also be picked up accidentally during a routine ultrasound scan. Other signs that your infant may have a sacral dimple include:
During the first few months of life, your infant may experience muscular weakness and a lack of muscle tone.
The infant will experience problems with their digestive system, such as an inability to pass waste and meconium (the feces produced before an infant’s first bowel movement) within the first 24 hours of life.
The infant will also suffer from respiratory difficulties, including a slow or irregular heartbeat and fluid in the lungs.
How is a sacral dimple treated?
Treatment for a sacral dimple will vary depending on the infant’s symptoms and how severe the condition is.
If your child’s symptoms are mild and do not disrupt their ability to move around, then no treatment may be necessary. If your infant’s condition is more severe, then the following medical procedures may be used:
If the muscles are underdeveloped or atrophied, they may be stretched or stimulated to improve muscle tone and strength.
If the skeletal system suffers from a defect, then surgery may be required to repair any damage.
If the spinal cord is damaged, then your infant may require surgery to relieve any build-up of pressure around the spinal cord.
A third, less common treatment for a sacral dimple is to prescribe your child pain medication to reduce any pain they experience.
Can a sacral dimple be prevented?
If you are pregnant and experience any signs or symptoms of a sacral dimple during your pregnancy, such as pain or a lack of amniotic fluid, then you should contact your health care provider immediately. Early detection and treatment is the best way to prevent serious complications from developing.
If your infant experiences any of the symptoms of a sacral dimple at birth or during infancy, then you should contact your health care provider immediately. Early treatment can improve your infant’s quality of life and help prevent long-term complications from developing.
Other than seeking treatment for a sacral dimple as soon as possible, there is nothing you can do to prevent this condition.
As of 2014, there are no known risk factors associated with developing a sacral dimple.
Sources & references used in this article:
Outcome of ultrasonographic imaging in infants with sacral dimple by JH Choi, T Lee, HH Kwon, SK You… – Korean Journal of …, 2018 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Ultrasound investigation of sacral dimples and other stigmata of spinal dysraphism by M McGovern, S Mulligan, O Carney, D Wall… – … of disease in childhood, 2013 – adc.bmj.com
Screening for spinal dysraphisms in newborns with sacral dimples by P Wilson, E Hayes, A Barber, J Lohr – Clinical pediatrics, 2016 – journals.sagepub.com
Sacral dimples by HA Zywicke, CJ Rozzelle – Pediatrics in Review-Elk Grove, 2011 – pedclerk.uchicago.edu
Filum terminale lipoma revealed by screening spinal ultrasonography in infants with simple sacral dimple by JE Oh, GY Lim, HW Kim, SY Kim – Child’s Nervous System, 2019 – Springer