Holoprosencephaly: a guide to diagnosis and clinical management

Indian Pediatr. 2011 Jun;48(6):457-66. doi: 10.1007/s13312-011-0078-x.


Context: Holoprosencephaly affects 1 in 8,000 live births and is the most common structural anomaly of the developing forebrain, resulting in facial dysmorphism, neurologic impairment, and additional clinical sequelae. Given the increasing relative contribution of genetic diseases to perinatal morbidity and mortality in India, proper recognition and management of holoprosencephaly can improve care for a significant number of affected Indian children.

Evidence acquisition: We used the PubMed database (search terms: "holoprosencephaly," "HPE," "holoprosencephaly India") and cross-referenced articles regarding holoprosencephaly, using our research group's extensive experience as a guide for identifying seminal papers in the field.

Results: Holoprosencephaly is classified into four types based on the nature of the brain malformations as seen on neuroimaging and/or pathologic examination, with typically recognizable craniofacial phenotypes. Despite the identification of several genetic loci and other etiologic agents involved in pathogenesis, additional causes are elusive. Moreover, satisfactory explanations for phenomena such as incomplete penetrance and variable expressivity are lacking.

Conclusions: For each patient, pediatricians should follow a diagnostic protocol including dysmorphology examination, complete family history and ascertainment of risk factors, and neuroimaging. Many medical issues, including hypothalamic dysfunction, endocrinologic dysfunction, motor impairment, respiratory issues, seizures, and hydrocephalus should be prioritized in management. Pediatricians should work with genetic specialists to identify syndromic forms and to perform cytogenetic investigation, molecular screening, and genetic counseling in order to fully characterize prognosis and recurrence risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Holoprosencephaly / diagnosis*
  • Holoprosencephaly / pathology
  • Holoprosencephaly / physiopathology
  • Holoprosencephaly / therapy*
  • Humans