Objective: To audit the current Dutch policy of prenatal detection of isolated open spina bifida based on offering detailed ultrasound examination only on indication. Methods: A retrospective analysis of prenatally diagnosed isolated spina bifida cases and of newborns diagnosed with this condition was carried out in three university hospitals. The data were collected from databases and clinical records of the departments of prenatal diagnosis, obstetrics, neonatology, child neurology and neurosurgery of the three centers. Results: Between January 1996 and December 1999, 88 cases of isolated open spina bifida were diagnosed prenatally by ultrasound investigation. Thirty-eight cases (43%) were diagnosed before the 24th week of gestation. Of these, 35 (92%) ended in termination of the pregnancy at the parents' request. Of the remaining 50 cases (57%) diagnosed after the 24th week of gestation, eight (16%) pregnancies were terminated beyond the legal limit for termination due to the severity of the condition. Of the 88 cases of isolated spina bifida, 25 infants (28%) were still alive at the age of 4 years. In the same audit period 112 newborn infants with isolated open spina bifida were admitted to the neonatology, child neurology, or neurosurgery ward of the three centers. Of these cases, 47 (42%) had been diagnosed prenatally and 65 (58%) were an unexpected finding at birth. In 24 infants (21%) surgical treatment was withheld because of the severity of the condition and predicted poor outcome, whereas the remaining 88 infants (79%) underwent surgical repair. Conclusion: The current practice in The Netherlands of offering ultrasound screening to high-risk patients only leads to the early detection of a minority of cases of spina bifida. Most cases are diagnosed either after the 24th week of gestation or they remain undiagnosed until after birth. When spina bifida is diagnosed before the 24th week of gestation the vast majority of parents opt for termination. In order to reduce the birth prevalence of spina bifida in The Netherlands the introduction of a policy of routine ultrasound screening should be considered. Copyright © 2003 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.