ANENCEPHALY - Overview, Facts, Types, Diagnosis & Medications, Etc.


Anencephaly is a congenital disability characterized by abnormal development of the brain and the skull. The bones of the skull and the brain of the baby failed to form completely during pregnancy. This affects the development of the cerebellum which is responsible for thinking, movement, and senses. Without a healthy cerebellum, a person cannot survive.

Anencephaly is considered a type of neural tube defect that is a term given to a list of congenital disabilities in the brain or spinal cord in the first month of pregnancy. The neural tube is a narrow channel responsible for the formation of the brain and spinal cord of the embryo. It folds typically and closes between the 3rd and 4th week of pregnancy. However, with anencephaly, the neural tube’s head end fails to complete, causing the non-appearance of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp.


There are three known type. These are:

  1. Meroanencephaly. It is a rare form of anencephaly characterized by malformed cranial bones and a median cranial defect. This defect extends to an abnormal tissue called the area cerebrovascular. It is an abnormal, spongy, vascular tissue combined with glial tissue ranging from a thin membrane to a large pseudoencephalic mass simulating cerebral tissue.
  2. Holoanencephaly. The most common type of anencephaly is characterized by the failure to form the brain or when the brain is absent.
  3. Craniorachischisis. The most severe type of anencephaly. It is where area cerebrovasculosa and area medullovasculosa fill both cranial defects and the spinal column. It is characterized by bony defects in the spine and exposed neural tissues due to the skull’s failed formation. This type occurs in 1 out of 1000 live births.


The signs can be first seen through prenatal tests using ultrasound and MRI. It is noticeable that there are missing parts or poorly formed elements of the skull, especially at the head’s back. The brain is also not appropriately constructed.


The diagnosis for anencephaly can be made during pregnancy or after birth. During pregnancy, when the mother undergoes prenatal tests, congenital disabilities such as anencephaly can be diagnosed. These tests include:

Blood tests. Anencephaly can be diagnosed when there are detected high levels of a liver protein called alpha-fetoprotein.

Imaging tests. Ultrasound and MRIs can show the physical signs of anencephaly.

There are some cases that anencephaly is not diagnosed until the baby is born. 



There is no treatment for anencephaly. When a baby with anencephaly is born, the baby must be immediately kept warm and comfortable, and if there are exposed parts of the brain, it should be covered. Almost all babies born with this condition pass away shortly after a few hours, while some babies may live for a few days. 

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