Encephalocele

Also known as: meningoencephalocele, cephalocele

What are Encephaloceles/meningoceles?

An encephalocele is a rare disorder (neural tube defect) where the bones of a fetus’s skull (anywhere from the nose to the back of the head) do not close all the way resulting in a space through which the tissues surrounding the brain (cerebrospinal fluid and meninges) and brain tissue itself bulges. A Meningocele is like an encephalocele but only contains the cerebrospinal fluid and meninges and the sac protrudes from the spinal column.


What causes encephalocele/ meningocele?

The exact causes are unknown, however there appears to be an inherited component as it can occur in families, and it seems likely that environmental toxins that a mother is exposed to, may also play a role.


What are the signs/symptoms of encephalocele/meningoceles? 

Encephaloceles are usually found after birth and while some may be quite small, if large they may be life threatening. Babies may be born with small heads, too much fluid in the brain, poor arm and leg strength,vision problems, intellectual and developmental delays, seizures, poor coordination and other symptoms. Meningoceles are typically diagnosed before birth.


What are encephalocele/meningocele care options?

Both Encephaloceles and meningoceles are treated with surgery (more than one surgery may be needed). Long term neurological rehabilitation is usually necessary.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 1:59:07 PM


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