An encephalocele is a rare birth defect. It occurs when a developing baby’s skull does not close completely. As a result, part of the baby’s brain may extend through the hole in the skull. The membrane that covers the brain, spinal cord, and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may protrude, as well. Skin or a thin membrane then covers the sac outside the skull. Encephaloceles may also be known as cranium bifidum. In rare cases, the encephalocele will be small, allowing it to initially go unnoticed (and undiagnosed); more often, it will be visible and can be quite large.
Our extensively trained plastic and craniofacial surgeon, Dr. Francesco Gargano, has broad experience in treating encephalocele, and can help develop a treatment plan that offers the best possible results. Being one of the Best Reconstructive Surgeons in Manhattan, he is dedicated to providing compassionate support and to serving as an informative resource. He understands that this experience can be very difficult, and so he strives to be a source of comfort, knowledge, and skill at every step.
How does encephalocele occur?
Encephalocele can present with a variety of signs, depending on the location, size, and type (what kind of brain matter and how much) of the skull deformity. As of now, the cause of this defect is unknown, and encephaloceles appear to occur spontaneously. However, there is some evidence that it can run in families.
Signs and symptoms of Encephaloceles
Encephaloceles are often accompanied by craniofacial abnormalities or other brain malformations. Symptoms may include:
- Neurologic problems
- Hydrocephalus (cerebrospinal fluid accumulated in the brain)
- Spastic quadriplegia (paralysis of the limbs)
- Microcephaly (an abnormally small head)
- Ataxia (uncoordinated muscle movement)
- Developmental delay
- Vision problems
- Mental and growth retardation
Treatment of Encephaloceles
Depending on whether brain tissue is contained within the skull defect, children born with an encephalocele may experience infections, herniations and intellectual learning disabilities. The type and amount of brain tissue present, as well as the location of the concern, will also affect the technique used to address the condition. During your initial consultation for encephalocele, Dr. Francesco Gargano will go over the details of your child’s condition with you, and his skilled team will support you through the next steps of the treatment process. Surgery typically will be required, and protruding brain tissue and fluids will need to be relocated within the skull. If the encephalocele is made up of membrane and cerebrospinal fluid alone, and no brain (or spinal cord) tissue, patients will often experience a full recovery with little to no mental impairment—a situation more prevalent with encephaloceles located on the front of the skull. Surgical correction of an encephalocele can be achieved without causing additional intellectual or functional disabilities. Surgery involves the combined approach of a craniofacial surgeon and a neurosurgeon.
If you have a child or another family member who is suffering from encephalocele, Dr. Francesco Gargano can help you get the best treatment. Contact us today to talk with the doctors and staff about your options and how we can help.
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