A qualitative analysis of patient and caregiver experiences with myelomeningocele through online discussion boards

Shriya Koneru, Sanjeevani Bhavsar, Sangami Pugazenthi, Gretchen M. Koller, Sasidhar Karuparti, Michael R. Kann, Jennifer M. Strahle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Patients and caregivers impacted by myelomeningocele (MMC) use online discussion board forums to create community and share information and concerns about this complex medical condition. We aim to identify the primary concerns expressed on these forums with the goal of understanding gaps in care that may merit investment of resources to improve care received by this population. Methods: Anonymous posts from online MMC discussion boards were compiled using internet search engines. Posts were then analyzed using an adaptation of the Grounded Theory Method, a three-step system involving open, axial, and selective coding of the data by two independent researchers to identify common themes. Results: Analysis of 400 posts written primarily by parents (n = 342, 85.5%) and patients (n = 45, 11.25%) yielded three overarching themes: questions surrounding quality of life, a lack of support for mothers of children with MMC, and confusion with a complex healthcare system. Many posts revealed concerns about management and well-being with MMC, including posts discussing symptoms and related conditions (n = 299, 75.75%), treatments (n = 259, 65.75%), and emotional aspects of MMC (n = 146, 36.5%). Additionally, families, especially mothers, felt a lack of support in their roles as caregivers. Finally, in 118 posts (29.5%), patients and families expressed frustration with navigating a complex healthcare system and finding specialists whose opinions they trusted. Conclusions: MMC is a complex medical condition that impacts patients and families in unique ways. Analysis of online discussion board posts identified key themes to be addressed in order to improve the healthcare experiences of those impacted by MMC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1783-1790
Number of pages8
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • Caregiver experience
  • Discussion boards
  • Myelomeningocele
  • Patient experience
  • Thematic analysis


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