Central nervous system congenital malformations in a developing country: issues and challenges against their prevention

Childs Nerv Syst. 2010 Jul;26(7):919-24. doi: 10.1007/s00381-009-1079-0. Epub 2010 Jan 21.


Background: Little efforts are geared towards prevention of CNS anomalies in the developing countries.

Methods: A 1-year prospective cross-sectional analysis of the cases of CNS congenital anomalies seen in a Nigerian neurosurgical unit. This included both the children's and parents' sociodemographics, the profiles of the CNS anomalies, and the maternal obstetric health behaviors toward primary and/or secondary prevention of the anomalies. Statistical analysis was done with the Pearson's chi-square (or Fishers' exact) test. Level of significance set at P < 0.05.

Results: There were 54 cases of cranial and spinal gross CNS anomalies, including 32 neural tube defects; two thirds of the parents were low-income earners, and half had only basic education. Thirty percent of the pregnancies were unbooked; the mean gestational age (GA) at booking and commencement of obstetric micronutrient supplementation was 4.6 months. No case had periconceptional folic acid supplementation. Obstetric ultrasonography was performed late in pregnancy (mean GA 6 months), made positive diagnosis of CNS anomaly in only 14%, and was performed mainly in unsupervised private clinic settings in 98%.

Conclusions: Little or no attention is currently paid to the prevention of CNS congenital anomalies in much of the low- and middle-income countries of the world. There is a great need to regulate the practice of obstetric ultrasonography in Nigeria. There is even a much greater, more fiercely urgent need to ensure periconceptional folic acid supplementation for all women of childbearing age through appropriate food fortification in these societies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nervous System Malformations / epidemiology
  • Nervous System Malformations / prevention & control*
  • Nigeria / epidemiology
  • Obstetrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / statistics & numerical data