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SADJ. 2003 Oct;58(9):370-3.

Encephalotrigeminal angiomatosis.

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  • 1Department of Periodontology and Oral Medicine, Medical University of Southern Africa, Medunsa.


We report an unusual case of encephalotrigeminal angiomatosis in which the facial and oral angioma was bilateral, and several teeth were congenitally absent. The developmental nature of the anomaly is reviewed. Encephalotrigeminal angiomatosis is commonly referred to as the Sturge-Weber syndrome, after Sturge and Weber who first described this affliction in 1879. The main clinical features of this syndrome are 1. venous angiomatosis of the leptomeninges of the cerebral-cortex, usually unilaterally 2. ipsilateral facial angiomatosis that often follows in outline the distribution of the trigeminal nerve (Fig 1) 3. ipsilateral gyriform calcification of the cerebral cortex 4. epileptic convulsions (contralateral focus) or other seizures 5. ocular defects (choroidal angioma, glaucoma hemianopia) 6. mental retardation 7. contralateral hemiplegia 8. obesity 9. oral mucosal and gingival involvement. Other less typical features are 1. association with hypomelanosis of 1 to 10 2. leptomeningeal angioma contralateral to the facial nevus 3. leptomeningeal angioma without facial vascular naevus 4. association with gastro intestinal hemorrhage 5. paranasal sinus enlargement. This syndrome that affects males and females equally, is a rare congenital disorder, apparently hamartomatous in nature, from persistence of a primitive embryonal vascular plexus. During the sixth week of intra-uterine life this plexus develops around the cephalic portion of the neural tube and under the ectoderm in the region destined to become facial skin. In the Sturge-Weber syndrome, the vascular plexus fails to regress, as is normal during the ninth week, resulting in angiomatosis of the related tissues. Variation in the degree of persistence or regression of the vascular plexus accounts for unilaterality or bilaterality of involvement, and also for an incomplete syndrome in which the leptomeninges, but not the facial tissues are affected. Leptomeningeal angiomatosis is the primary abnormality of encephalotrigeminal angiomatosis, all other features of the syndrome probably being secondary to this. Calcification of the cortex is a poorly understood phenomenon which may result from stasis of blood in the angioma, associated with altered local metabolism. Epilepsy and other neurological seizures, and mental retardation are probably, in their turn, secondary to the cortical calcification. The most striking clinical feature of the Sturge-Weber syndrome is the facial vascular naevus which generally follows the distribution of innervation of one or more divisions of the trigeminal nerve, whence the term encephalotrigeminal angiomatosis. However, the naevus may be more extensive, down the neck and even onto the chest. The oral tissues underlying the affected facial tissues are invariably also angiomatous and may be considerably enlarged as a result. Alterations in eruption of teeth have also been noted. Histologically, affected soft tissues are very vascular, resembling a pyogenic granuloma or a capillary, or cavernous hemangioma. Yukna, Cassingham and Carr noted that affected bone was partially replaced by a delicate fibrous tissue containing thin-walled vascular spaces. Neither inflammatory cells, nor fatty or haemopoietic marrow was noted.

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