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Am J Med Genet. 1996 Aug 23;64(3):465-72.

Holoprosencephaly: epidemiologic and clinical characteristics of a California population.

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March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, Emeryville, California 94608, USA.


Holoprosencephaly is a brain defect resulting from incomplete cleavage of the embryonic forebrain. It involves forebrain and facial malformations that can range from mild to severe. The epidemiology of holoprosencephaly is largely unknown. Published prevalence estimates have been derived from clinic-based case series, and suggested risk factors for holoprosencephaly have been identified in case reports, without confirmation from systematically conducted population-based studies. Using data from a population-based birth defects registry in California, we describe the epidemiologic and clinical characteristics of cytogenetically and phenotypically distinct types of holoprosencephaly. A total of 121 cases was identified among a cohort of 1,035,386 live births and fetal deaths. The prevalence of holoprosencephaly was 1.2 per 10,000 births (95% confidence interval 1.0-1.4 per 10,000). Of all cases, 41% (50/121) had a chromosomal abnormality, most commonly Trisomy 13. Among the 71 cytogenetically apparently normal cases, 18 had recognizable syndromes and the remaining 53 were of unknown cause. Among the cytogenetically abnormal cases, females had a greater risk than males (odds ratio = 2.3,95% confidence interval [1.2, 4.4]). Among the cytogenetically normal cases, increased risks were observed among Hispanic whites (OR = 1.8 [0.9, 3.6]) and cases whose mother was born in Mexico (OR = 2.2 [1.0, 4.5]). Approximately 46% of all cases had alobar holoprosencephaly, the most severe form of the forebrain malformation. The facial phenotype did not strongly predict the severity of the brain defect; however, severity was inversely correlated with length of survival. This study is the first to present findings based on such a large population-based series of infants/fetuses affected by holoprosencephaly, and demonstrates the importance of investigating the component subgroups of this rare phenotype.

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