What is the prognosis of Anencephaly?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Sep 27, 2012
Quick Bites

It is a condition that prevents the normal development of the brain and the bones of the skull.
The exact causes of anencephaly are unknown yet.
There is no treatment for anencephaly.
The prognosis for babies born with anencephaly is extremely poor.


Anencephaly is a condition that prevents the normal development of the brain and the bones of the skull. It occurs when the neural tube, a layer of cells that develops into the brain and spinal cord fails to close during the first few weeks of the embryonic development. It is classified as a neural tube defect because it is caused by the abnormalities of the neural tube.


The developing brain and spinal cord get exposed to amniotic fluid which is present around the fetus if the neural tube fails to close properly. The exposure breaks down the nervous system tissue leading to a brain which has no cerebrum and cerebellum. These two parts are necessary for thinking, hearing, vision, emotion and coordinating the movements.


The exact causes of anencephaly are unknown yet.  The chances of neural tube defects such as anencephaly or spina bifida may increase if there is a lack of folic acid before and during pregnancy. In most of the cases, it is found infants who have family history of disorder. However, if the parents have had a child who was born with anencehaly, they have a greater chance of having another baby with this condition. The recurrence rate for anencephaly is 4-5 % and rises to 10- 13% if the parents have had two other children with anencephaly.

Genes Which Are Related to Anencephaly

Anencephaly is most likely caused by the interaction of multiple genetic and environmental factors. While some of the factors have been identified others still remain unknown. The changes in dozens of the genes tend to influence the risk of anencephaly. Best studied gene is MTHFR, which provides instructions for making a protein which is a part of processing of B vitamin folate. The studies on changes in the genes related to folate processing and genes which are involved in the development of the neural tube hint towards the potential risk factors for anencephaly.

Researches have been conducted on environmental factors that could have any role associated with risk of anencephaly. It has been observed that shortage of folate can play a significant role. According to some studies, women who take folate supplement before they get pregnant are less likely to have baby with anencephaly or any neural tube defect. Some of the other possible risk factors include diabetes, mellitus, obesity, exposure to high heat in early pregnancy.

In most cases of anencephaly, this disorder occurs in people who never have any history of this disorder in their family. A few very cases which this disorder have been to report to run in families but the there is no clear pattern of inheritance have been noticed.  Parents who have had a child with anencephaly, the risk is increased in the another affected baby.

Treatment and Prognosis

There is no treatment for anencephaly but the child with disorder is provided with supportive care. The infant should be kept warm and the areas of brain must be protected from getting exposed. The prognosis for babies born with anecephaly is extremely poor. If the infant is not stillborn, then he or she will usually doe within a few hours or days after birth.


Image Courtesy: Getty

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