What is Encephaloceles

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 17, 2013

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Quick Bites

  • Encephalocele is a rare neural tube birth defect.
  • In it, baby is born with part of brain protruding out.
  • It affects the brain and can even lead to mental disorders.
  • Surgery is done in most of the cases of encephaliceles.

An encephalocele is a rare neural tube defect present at birth and affects the brain. The brain and the spinal cord are formed by narrow channel of the neural tube that folds and closes during the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy.


Encephalocele is described as a sac – like protrusion or projection of the brain and the membranes that cover it through an opening in the skull. When the neural tube does not close completely during the pregnancy, it leads to encephalocele which results in opening in the midline of the upper part of the skull, the area between the forehead and nose, or back of the skull. When the groove is located at the back of the skull, encephalocele results in neurological problems.

Symptoms of Encephalocele include :

Excessive accumulation of the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain
very small head
problems with their vision
delayed growth and development
learning difficulties
Spasticity or other movement disorders
paralysis in the legs and arms
mental disorders


Surgery is done in most of the cases of encephaliceles to put the part of the brain back into the skull into place and then the opening is closed. The encephaliceles is repaired by the surgeons with in the first few months after the birth of the baby.  Surgeon often recommends surgery soon after the birth of the baby when there is no skin cover on the encephalocele.

new born baby

Neurosurgeons perform an operation called craniotomy while treating an encephalocele which allows them to get to the child’s brain. During a craniotomy, the neurosurgeon cuts and removes a piece of bone from the skull. The neurosurgeon then cuts the tough membrane that protects the brain and replaces the brain tissue and any membranes or fluids that have come out of the gap in the skull. The sac that surrounds the gap is also removed and the dura mater is then closed by using the same piece of the bone which has been removed. If there is larger hole in the skull, then neurosurgeon may use an artificial plate to repair the area.


The prognosis of encephalocele varies depending upon the type of the brain tissue involved and the location of the sacs and the accompanying brain malformations.

Image Courtesy : getty

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