Encephalocele

Cranium bifidum

Encephalocele is a birth defect where the skull doesn't form properly, leaving a hole through which brain membranes can protrude

About

Sometimes, a baby's skull doesn't develop properly before birth. When this happens, it can leave a gap in the skull, which allows a portion of the brain to stick out as a skin-covered sac. This condition is called encephalocele. It can happen anywhere on the skull though it usually affects the back of it or the inside of the nose at the skull base.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of encephalocele icon plus

    There are different types of encephalocele protrusion. If just the brain covering is sticking out, it's called a meningocele. If brain tissue and the covering are sticking out, it's called an encephalomeningocele. In both cases, the protrusion is covered by skin or a thin membrane, and will look like a small sac. Many children with a encephalocele will experience no symptoms at all. Others may have varying symptoms, including hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). Some children may show signs of developmental delay. This is when a child younger than school age takes longer to reach certain physical, emotional, learning and social milestones.
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    If encephalocele is large enough it'll often be picked up on during a prenatal ultrasound scan. Otherwise, encephalocele presents as a sac on your baby's head, so it'll often be noticeable at birth. However, your HCA UK GP or consultant may recommend a CT or MRI scan to confirm a diagnosis.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Babies with encephalocele will often require surgery to preposition the protruding brain tissue and/or covering. The gap in the skull will also be repaired during this procedure. Exactly when the surgery will happen will depend on the size and nature of the encephalocele itself. The procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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