Encephalomeningocele, especially in the frontoethmoidal region, is a form of neural tube defect which affects patients in Southeast Asia more commonly than in Western countries. Its underlying cause is not known but teratogenic environmental agents are suspected. However, nutritional deficiency, as in spina bifida, cannot be excluded.
This study reports 21 cases of meningocele (without brain tissue in the lesion) and encephalomeningocele (with brain tissue) that were admitted to our hospital for surgical corrections in the period of ten years, from 1990 to 1999. Clinicopathological findings, as well as occupations of family members and prenatal exposures to infectious agents or chemicals were reviewed and analyzed.
The most commonly involved area was the frontoethmoidal region, found in 20 cases. The combined pattern between nasoethmoidal and nasoorbital defects was found most frequently (11 from 21 cases) and had more associated abnormalities. Encephalomeningocele had more related abnormalities than meningocele with proportions of 0.6 and 0.3, respectively.
Here, we confirmed that genetic defects are not likely to be the single primary cause of this malformation. However, we could not draw any conclusions on etiologic agents. We suggest that case control studies and further investigation on the role of nutritional deficiencies, especially folic acid, in the pathogenesis of encephalomeningocele are necessary to clarify the underlying mechanisms.