Encephalocele can be said to be a rare form of a neural tube defect or NTD that occurs at birth and affects an infant’s brain. A neural tube is a constricted channel that normally folds and shuts around the 3rd and 4th weeks during pregnancy to form a fetus’s brain and the spinal cord. It can be illustrated as a protrusion that resembles a sac or a brain projection including membranes that envelop it through the skull opening. Encephalocele occurs when a neutral tube fails to completely close during pregnancy. What results is a hollow space just at the skull’s upper part midline; this is the part between the nose and forehead or at the skull’s rear.
Normally an encephalocele occurs just after birth. However, an undersized encephalocele within the forehead and nose area can be hard to detect.
Research has shown that close to 375 infants born in the US have encephalocele. This translates to about 1 of 10,000 infants born across US every year experience encephalocele.
Signs and Symptoms of Encephalocele
The characteristic appearance of encephalocele at the skull’s back is often associated with nervous system issues. Encephalocele is usually noticed with other face and brain defects. Some common signs and symptoms of encephalocele include;
- Awkward motion of voluntary muscles usually the ones that aid reaching and walking
- Excess fluid build-up inside the brain
- General weakness on legs and arms
- An unusual small head
- Vision related problems
- Delay in body development
- Growth and mental retardation
Causes of Encephalocele
Even though the actual cause of the condition I not known, medical experts trust that quite a number of factors come into play. The condition has a genetic connection, meaning that it can occur with families experiencing or having a anencephaly and spina bifida history. Researchers also believe exposure to a particular environment during or before pregnancy can lead to encephalocele, but it calls for more research.
Most factors usually point to low survival rates in infants with the conditions that also includes pre-term births, numerous birth defects, low birth weight as well as being a African American or black.
Risks of Encephalocele during Pregnancy
If a mother gets her baby diagnosed with encephalocele, then she is at great risk of having some problems and complications during pregnancy. These include;
- Possibility of a cesarean section: If an encephalocele is quite large, then the infant’s head might be quite huge to allow it through the mother’s birth canal. But keeping maternal risk on the low is very important if an encephalocele is quite big and there are obvious anomalies due to a weak prognosis.
- Miscarriage: A Fetus having an encephalocele is more likely not survive till birth. Nearly 21% or 1 in every 5 is born alive. Of the ones born alive, just 50% of them survive.
A fetus with an encephalocele appearing at the front of the skull is quite likely to live on than the one with the encephalocele protruding from the back of the skull. Brain tissue absence in the sac is the sole most positive prognostic indicator. Also presence of other linked malformations or defects is also a prognosis indicator.
Once the exact diagnosis of the condition including associated irregularities have been established, then a mother can undergo counseling regarding the baby’s probable prognosis or outcome.
There is currently no defined way of preventing encephalocele, but there are steps that can be applied to lower its risk. Studies have revealed that adding a type of Vitamin B known as folic acid into a woman’s diet can significantly reduce cases of infants born with neural tube defect. Also before and within pregnancy mothers should desist from smoking and drinking of alcohol.