Prader-Willi Syndrome: A spectrum of anatomical and clinical features

Clin Anat. 2016 Jul;29(5):590-605. doi: 10.1002/ca.22686. Epub 2016 Jan 29.


Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is estimated to affect 400,000 people worldwide. First described clinically in 1956, PWS is now known to be a result of a genetic mutation, involving Chromosome 15. The phenotypical appearance of individuals with the syndrome follows a similar developmental course. During infancy, universal hypotonia accompanied by feeding problems, hypogonadism, and dolichocephaly are evident. Characteristic facial features such as narrow bifrontal diameter, almond-shaped eyes, and small mouth (with downturned corners and thin upper lip) may also be evident at this stage. In early childhood, the craniofacial features become more obvious and a global developmental delay is observed. Simultaneously, individuals develop hyperphagia that leads to excessive or rapid weight gain, which, if untreated, exists throughout their lifespan and may predispose them to numerous, serious health issues. The standard tool for differential diagnosis of PWS is genetic screening; however, clinicians also need to be aware of the characteristic features of this disorder, including differences between the genetic subtypes. As the clinical manifestations of the syndrome vary between individuals and become evident at different developmental time points, early assessment is hindered. This article focuses on the clinical and anatomical manifestations of the syndrome and highlights the areas of discrepancy and limitations within the existing literature. Clin. Anat. 29:590-605, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: Prader-Willi syndrome; anatomy; clinical criteria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dentition
  • Facies
  • Humans
  • Hypopigmentation / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Abnormalities / etiology
  • Phenotype
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / complications
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / pathology*
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Vision, Ocular