Aims: To report our neonatal management experience in patients who received a diagnosis of brainstem dysgenesis (BSD).
Patients and methods: This study retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 15 neonates with BSD diagnosed between 1984 and 2011. Data on the perinatal period, physical examination, laboratory findings, and management by systems were systematically analyzed.
Results: All cases were sporadic. Cocaine abuse and misoprostol use were recorded in two pregnancies. The reason for admission was prematurity (2 of 15), respiratory distress (8 of 15), gastroschisis (1 of 15), and abnormal neurological examination (4 of 15). Clinically, the most commonly affected cranial nerves were the 7th (13 of 15), 9th (11 of 15), 10th (8 of 15), 5th (7 of 15), 12th (7 of 15), 6th (3 of 15), 4th (1 of 15), and 3rd (1 of 15). Five patients required positive pressure ventilation during delivery room resuscitation, three had difficult airways, and two needed tracheostomy during admission. Most patients required nasogastric tube feeding shortly after birth, and four patients had a gastrostomy on discharge. Two patients died of respiratory and cardiac failure. Electromyography and nerve conduction velocity were used to exclude generalized neuromuscular disorders, and in conjunction with other neurophysiological and gastrointestinal tract studies, helped uncover the extent of brainstem involvement in most cases. Cranial magnetic resonance imaging supported the diagnosis in more than half of the patients.
Conclusions: Early diagnosis of BSD is mainly clinical, difficult to establish unless suspected, and crucial to prevent complications. Neonatal care of patients with BSD requires a comprehensive approach that must take into consideration the etiological, anatomical, and pathogenic aspects contributing to the clinical manifestations of this disorder. Care should be provided by multidisciplinary teams, in which neonatologists, pediatric neurologists, nutritionists, physical therapists, and other professionals participate, depending on the associated morbidity in order to improve its management and prognosis.