Encephalocele, sometimes known by the Latin name cranium bifidum, is a neural tube defect characterized by sac-like protrusions of the brain and the membranes that cover it through openings in the skull. It is a rare birth defect.encephalocele

Types of encephalocele

  1. Meningocele – the bulging portion contains only cerebrospinal fluid and the overlaying membrane
  2. Encephalomeningocele – brain tissue is present.

Causative Factor

  1. Failure of the neural tube to close completely during fetal development
  2. Encephaloceles occur rarely, at a rate of one per 5,000 live births worldwide. Ethnic, genetic, and environmental factors, as well as parental age, can all affect the likelihood of encephaloceles. The condition can also occur in families with a family history of spina bifida.
  3. Although the exact cause is unknown, encephaloceles are caused by failure of the neural tube to close completely during fetal development. Research has indicated that teratogens (substances known to cause birth defects), trypan blue (a stain used to color dead tissues or cells blue), and arsenic may damage the developing fetus and cause encephaloceles.


  1. Neurologic problems
  2. Hydrocephalus
  3. Spastic quadriplegia (paralysis of the limbs)
  4. Microcephaly (an abnormally small head)
  5. Ataxia (uncoordinated muscle movement)
  6. Developmental delay
  7. Vision problems
  8. Mental and growth retardation
  9. Seizures.

Process of diagnosing the case

Usually encephaloceles are noticeable deformities and are diagnosed immediately after birth, but a small encephalocele in the nasal or forehead region can go undetected. Various physical and mental developmental delays can indicate the presence of encephaloceles.


Surgery is currently the only effective treatment, generally performed during infancy. Occasionally, shunts are placed to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid from the brain.

Nursing Considerations

  1. Teach the mothers that the role of Folic Acid is very important in every neural tube defects  therefore emphasizing this to pregnant woman and those who are planning to get pregnant is very crucial.
  2. Encourage them to take foods rich in folic acid.
  3. An adequate prenatal check-up must be complied to provide proper evaluation of the growth and development of the fetus.

Photo credits: www.folicacid.net

Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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