What is schizencephaly?

Schizencephaly is a birth defect that causes slits or clefts in the cerebral hemispheres of your brain. These clefts may appear on one or both sides of your brain. They may be filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

How common is schizencephaly?

Schizencephaly is a rare condition. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of schizencephaly?

The symptoms of schizencephaly can vary depending on whether you have clefts on both sides of your brain, which are bilateral, or only one side, which are unilateral.

Unilateral clefts almost always produce paralysis on one side of your body. Most people with unilateral clefts have normal to near normal intelligence.

Bilateral clefts tend to cause more serious symptoms than unilateral clefts. They often cause developmental delays, including delays in learning speech and language skills. They can also cause problems with movement due to poor communication between your brain and spinal cord.

Other symptoms of schizencephaly can include:

  • Poor muscle tone
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • A smaller than normal head
  • Accumulation of excess fluid in your brain
  • Recurring seizures

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If your child has any signs or symptoms listed above or if you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes schizencephaly?

The exact cause of schizencephaly is unknown. Some people have genetic and vascular theories about the possible causes.

People have linked some cases of the condition to certain medications or infections that can disrupt blood flood in developing infants.

Some people with schizencephaly have mutations in one of these genes:

  • EMX2
  • SIX3
  • SHH
  • COL4A1

Cases of schizencephaly in siblings also point to a possible genetic cause.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for schizencephaly?

There are many risk factors for schizencephaly, such as:

  • Having a young mother
  • Having certain genetic mutations
  • Having a sibling, especially an identical twin, with schizencephaly
  • Exposure to certain medications or infections that can disrupt blood flow before birth

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is schizencephaly diagnosed?

Your doctor will likely use MRI to diagnose schizencephaly. The images created by MRIs have better definition than CT scans. MRIs can also create images of multiple parts of your brain.

If your doctor finds telltale clefts in one or both cerebral hemispheres of your brain, they’ll diagnose you with schizencephaly.

How is schizencephaly treated?

No known cure for schizencephaly exists, but your doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments to help manage your symptoms, treat complications, and improve your quality of life.

Your doctor may prescribe medication to help prevent seizures. If cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) has accumulated in your brain, your doctor may refer you to a surgeon to insert shunts. These devices will redirect the CSF to other parts of your body that can harmlessly reabsorb it.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage schizencephaly?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with schizencephaly:

  • Physical therapists can help you improve your gross motor movements, such as your ability to stand and walk. They can also help you strengthen your arms and legs.
  • Occupational therapists can help you improve your fine motor movements, such as your ability to feed yourself and get dressed. They can also help you make your home and work environments accessible.
  • Speech therapists can help you learn to speak or swallow more effectively.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: February 19, 2019 | Last Modified: February 19, 2019

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