What is an encephalocele?

An encephalocele is a rare birth defect in which the tissue covering the brain, and a portion of the brain itself, protrude through openings in the skull. It may be accompanied by other craniofacial defects.

Encephaloceles can occur anywhere in the skull — involving the top, back, or sides of the head or the forehead, nose, and eye area. Their severity varies, depending on their size, location, and what parts of head and face are involved.

The exact cause of encephalocele is unknown. It a type of neural tube defect, meaning that the neural tube — a narrow channel that should close during early gestation to form the brain and spinal cord — does not close properly.

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Why choose Boston Children’s Hospital for treatment of encephaloceles?

The Craniofacial Program at Boston Children’s brings together a team of highly experienced neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, oral and maxillofacial (face and jaw) specialists, dentistry professionals, psychologists, and social workers, all experienced in rare malformations. While repairing the physical deformity, we also focus on minimizing disability from any neurologic and developmental damage that may have occurred. Meet our craniofacial team.

Our program has pioneered the use of 3D-printed models of the brain and skull to help plan operations for craniofacial deformities, including encephalocele. The models are created from an individual child’s imaging scans in partnership with Boston Children’s Simulator Program, allowing surgeons to plan and rehearse complex operations.

Make an appointment

For an appointment with the Cleft and Craniofacial Center, more information, or to obtain a second opinion for your child, please call us at 617-355-6309 or email our program coordinator, samantha.hall@childrens.harvard.edu.

International patients

For families residing outside of the United States, please call Boston Children's Global Services at +01-617-355-5209.