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.

The Fetal Care Center and Brain Institute Teams at Nicklaus Children's Hospital

The Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s is devoted to the care of infants prediagnosed with medical needs in utero that will require intervention at birth. In collaboration with the Brain Institute’s Division of Neurosurgery, they offer the best possible care and outcomes for patients.

The Nicklaus Children's multidisciplinary team of pediatric subspecialists including pediatric surgeons, ob/gyns, neonatologists, cardiologists and other specialists collaborate with prenatal care providers in the community and beyond to provide families comprehensive, coordinated care and support from prenatal testing to delivery, postnatal care and the transition to infant care.

Reviewed by: John Ragheb, MD

This page was last updated on: January 06, 2021 08:50 AM

Fetal Care Center

The Fetal Care Center is dedicated to families expecting an infant with medical needs that require intervention at birth. The facility offers comprehensive, coordinated care from prenatal diagnosis to delivery, postnatal care and the transition to infant care.

Learn more

Learn more about

Neural Tube Defects

A neural tube defect is a birth defect that occurs very early in the development of a fetus, often during the first month of pregnancy, where the brain, spinal cord and spinal column do not develop normally. In some children there is an open defect at birth which needs to be repaired within 24 hours while others may have a skin covered swelling which can be repaired more electively. Learn more