Limb-body wall complex: 4 new cases illustrating the importance of examining placenta and umbilical cord

Pathol Res Pract. 2000;196(11):783-90. doi: 10.1016/S0344-0338(00)80114-4.


Limb-body wall complex (LBWC) is a rare, sporadic, congenital defect defined as a combination of at least two of three characteristics: 1. limb defects, 2. anterior body wall defects, and 3. exencephaly or encephalocoele with/without facial clefts. Three pathogenic mechanisms have been proposed: early amnion rupture, vascular disruption and embryonic dysgenesis. In this study we carried out the pathological evaluation of four fetuses with LBWC and their placentas. None of the cases had craniofacial defects. Three fetuses showed an abdominal wall defect with eventration of abdominal organs, cloacal exstrophy, absent external genitalia, abnormal internal genitalia, scoliosis and lower limb defects. One fetus showed failure of closure of both thoracic and abdominal walls with ectopia cordis, evisceration of left lung and abdominal organs, severe reduction defect of left arm, but normal colon, anus, bladder, genitalia and lower limbs. All cases had a short, malformed umbilical cord, incompletely covered by amnion. The umbilical vessels were embedded in an amniotic sheet which connected the skin margin of the anterior body wall defect to the placenta. These anomalies suggest an abnormal body stalk development as a pathogenic mechanism for LBWC. Prenatally, the abnormal fetoplacental attachment can be detected ultrasonographically by the end of the first gestational trimester. Postnatally, the examination of placenta, umbilical cord and membranes is crucial in confirming the diagnosis of LBWC.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / abnormalities*
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / etiology
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Limb Deformities, Congenital / etiology
  • Limb Deformities, Congenital / pathology*
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Umbilical Cord / pathology*