Skip Navigation

Search Knowledgebase

Anencephaly

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

Important
It is possible that the main title of the report Anencephaly is not the name you expected.

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Summary
Anencephaly is a term that refers to the incomplete development of the brain, skull, and scalp and is part of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects (NTD). The structure which will become the neural tube is supposed to fold and to close together (to form a tube) during the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy. From this neural tube, the brain and spinal cord of the embryo develop. Neural tube defects happen when the neural tube does not close as expected. Anencephaly occurs when the end of the neural tube that would have developed into the brain does not close properly, resulting in the failure of the development of major portions of brain, skull and scalp. Other neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, form when the neural tube does not close properly in a different part of the neural tube.

Infants with anencephaly are born without the front part of the brain, (forebrain) and the thinking and coordinating part of the brain (cerebral hemispheres and cerebellum). Most of the time the remaining brain tissue may be exposed, without skull or scalp to cover and protect it. Although reflex actions such as breathing and responses to touch or sound may occur, gaining consciousness is not possible. Usually infants with anencephaly do not survive more than a few days or weeks.

Introduction
Meroanencephaly and holoanencephaly are terms refer to the extent of the cranial defect, however, they typically are not used in clinical descriptions and are not predictive of severity of the condition. The term acrania has been used interchangeably with anencephaly in some parts of the world but that practice is discouraged as it confuses two very different conditions.

Resources

NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
Tel: (301)496-5751
Fax: (301)402-2186
Tel: (800)352-9424
TDD: (301)468-5981
Internet: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/

NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
31 Center Dr
Building 31, Room 2A32
MSC2425
Bethesda, MD 20892
Fax: (866)760-5947
Tel: (800)370-2943
TDD: (888)320-6942
Email: NICHDInformationResourceCenter@mail.nih.gov
Internet: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/

Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc.
976 Lake Baldwin Lane
Orlando, FL 32814
USA
Tel: (407)895-0802
Email: staff@birthdefects.org
Internet: http://www.birthdefects.org

MUMS National Parent-to-Parent Network
150 Custer Court
Green Bay, WI 54301-1243
USA
Email: mums@netnet.net
Internet: http://www.netnet.net/mums/

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center
PO Box 8126
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311
TDD: (888)205-3223
Internet: http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/

Infants Remembered In Silence, Inc. (IRIS)
112 Third Street NE
Faribault, MN 55021
Tel: (507)334-4748
Fax: (507)334-4748
Email: support@irisremembers.com
Internet: http://www.irisRemembers.com

Fetal Hope Foundation
9786 South Holland Street
Littleton, CO 80127
USA
Tel: (303)932-0553
Tel: (877)789-4673
Email: info@fetalhope.org
Internet: http://www.fetalhope.org

Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Inc.
402 Jackson Street
Saint Charles, MO 63301
Tel: (636)947-6164
Fax: (636)947-7486
Tel: (800)821-6819
Email: info@nationalshare.org
Internet: http://www.nationalshare.org

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). A copy of the complete report can be downloaded free from the NORD website for registered users. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational therapies (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, go to www.rarediseases.org and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only. NORD recommends that affected individuals seek the advice or counsel of their own personal physicians.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

For additional information and assistance about rare disorders, please contact the National Organization for Rare Disorders at P.O. Box 1968, Danbury, CT 06813-1968; phone (203) 744-0100; web site www.rarediseases.org or email orphan@rarediseases.org

Last Updated:  8/1/2012
Copyright  1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1999, 2002, 2009, 2012 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.