Rhomboencephalosynapsis: Review of the Literature

World Neurosurg. 2022 Mar:159:48-53. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2021.12.062. Epub 2021 Dec 22.


Rhombencephalosynapsis is a rare congenital anomaly, characterized by partial or total agenesis of the cerebellar vermis with midline fusion of the cerebellar hemispheres, dentate nuclei, and the superior cerebellar peduncles, creating the distinctive keyhole appearance of the fourth ventricle. Rhombencephalosynapsis can be isolated or can occur in association with other congenital anomalies and syndromes such as Gómez-López-Hernández syndrome (GLHS) or VACTERL: vertebral anomalies (V), anal atresia (A), cardiovascular defects (C), esophageal atresia and/or tracheoesophageal fistula (TE), and renal (R) and limb/radial (L) anomalies. Recent advances in prenatal imaging have resulted in an increasing rate of prenatal diagnosis of abnormalities of the posterior fossa including rhombencephalosynapsis. Patients with rhombencephalosynapsis may present with motor developmental delay, ataxia, swallowing difficulties, muscular hypotonia, spastic quadriparesis, abnormal eye movements, and a characteristic "figure-of-eight" head shaking. Cognitive outcome varies from severe intellectual disability to normal intellectual function. Rhombencephalosynapsis with VACTERL is often associated with severe cognitive disabilities, whereas patients with GLHS may have better cognitive function. The most common associated findings with rhombencephalosynapsis include hydrocephalus, mesencephalosynapsis, holoprosencephaly, pontocerebellar hypoplasia, corpus callosum dysgenesis, and absence of septum pellucidum. Patients can be categorized into 4 groups: 1) rhombencephalosynapsis associated with GLHS; 2) rhombencephalosynapsis with VACTERL; 3) rhombencephalosynapsis with atypical holoprosencephaly, and 4) isolated rhomboencephalosynapsis. The etiology of rhombencephalosynapsis is unknown. Here, we discuss several hypotheses about its etiology.

Keywords: Congenital; Hydrocephalus; Pediatric; Posterior fossa; Rhomboencephalosynapsis; VACTERL.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple* / diagnosis
  • Alopecia
  • Cerebellum / abnormalities
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities* / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders
  • Holoprosencephaly*
  • Humans
  • Neurocutaneous Syndromes*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rhombencephalon

Supplementary concepts

  • Gomez Lopez Hernandez syndrome