Skip to main content
Back to Top
Houston Cranio Facial


Also known as cranium bifida, encephalocele is a rare disorder, known as a neural tube defect, in which a bony gap is left open in the skull and brain tissue, membrane, and/or cerebrospinal fluid protrude. This condition resembles a sac-like bulge and can be found on any part of the head, although the front or back (occipital area) is the most common location. Typically occipital encephalocele is more common in Asia and frontal encephalocele is more common in North America. In rare cases, the encephalocele will be small, allowing it to initially go unnoticed (and undiagnosed); more often it will be visible and can be quite large. Our extensively trained plastic and craniofacial surgeon, Dr. Eric Payne, has broad experience treating this type of deformity, and can help develop a treatment plan that offers the best possible results. At The Craniofacial and Plastic Surgery Center Houston, we are dedicated to providing compassionate support and to serving as an informative resource. We understand that this experience can be very difficult, and we strive to be a source of comfort, knowledge, and skill at every step. For more information, simply reach out to our friendly and skilled medical team with any questions.

How does encephalocele occur?

Encephalocele can present with a variety of signs, depending on the location, size, and type (what kind of brain matter and how much) of the skull deformity. As of now, the cause of this defect is unknown, and encephaloceles appear to occur spontaneously. However, there is some evidence that it can run in families.

What signs are associated with encephalocele and how is this condition treated?

Depending on whether brain tissue is contained within the skull defect, children born with an encephalocele may experience intellectual and learning disabilities. The type and amount of brain tissue present, as well as the location of the concern, will also affect the technique used to address the condition. Surgery typically will be required, and protruding brain tissue and fluids will need to be relocated within the skull. If the encephalocele is made up of membrane and cerebrospinal fluid alone, and no brain (or spinal cord) tissue, patients will often experience a full recovery with little to no mental impairment—a situation more prevalent with encephaloceles located on the front of the skull. Surgical correction of an encephalocele can be achieved without causing additional intellectual or functional disabilities. During your initial consultation, Dr. Payne will go over the details of your child’s condition with you, and our skilled team will support you through the next steps of the treatment process. We will work closely with a pediatric neurosurgeon to reconstruct the skull defect.

It’s normal to have many questions when your child is diagnosed with a skull deformity. We can help answer and treat them. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a consultation with our surgeons.