Colpocephaly is a congenital brain abnormality in which the occipital horns - the posterior or rear portion of the lateral ventricles (cavities) of the brain -- are larger than normal because white matter in the posterior cerebrum has failed to develop or thicken. Colpocephaly, one of a group of structural brain disorders known as cephalic disorders, is characterized by microcephaly (an abnormally small head) and impaired intellect. Other features may include movement abnormalities, muscle spasms, and seizures. Although the cause of colpocephaly is unknown, researchers believe that the disorder results from some kind of disturbance in the fetal environment that occurs between the second and sixth months of pregnancy. Colpocephaly may be diagnosed late in pregnancy, although it is often misdiagnosed as hydrocephalus (excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain). It may be more accurately diagnosed after birth when signs of impaired intellect, microcephaly, and seizures are present.
There is no definitive treatment for colpocephaly. Anticonvulsant medications are often prescribed to prevent seizures, and doctors rely on exercise therapies and orthopedic appliances to reduce shrinkage or shortening of muscles.
The prognosis for individuals with colpocephaly depends on the severity of the associated conditions and the degree of abnormal brain development. Some children benefit from special education.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), conduct research related to colpocephaly and other cephalic disorders in laboratories at the NIH, and also support additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country. Much of this research focuses on finding ways to prevent brain abnormalities such as colpocephaly.
March of Dimes
1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: 914-997-4488 888-MODIMES (663-4637)
Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc.
976 Lake Baldwin Lane
Orlando, FL 32814
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.
All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.
Last Modified June 30, 2015