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Congenital brain malformations



Congenital brain malformations are a group of brain defects or disorders that develop in the womb and are present at birth.

The fetal brain begins to develop shortly after conception and continues to grow throughout pregnancy. Billions of neurons, or nerve cells, undergo a critical development process in which they form brain regions. If anything interrupts this process, particularly during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, brain malformations can result. Brain malformations may also develop if the skull doesn't form properly.

While the cause is not always known, congenital brain malformations may result from inherited genetic defects, spontaneous mutations within the embryo's genes, or damage to the fetus caused by the mother's exposure to toxins, infection, trauma or drug use.

The symptoms and prognosis for congenital brain malformations vary, depending on their type and severity. Some brain malformations are diagnosed at birth, while others may go undetected until adolescence or adulthood.

Babies born with congenital brain malformations are cared for in our Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery or NICN, a component of the UCSF William H. Tooley Intensive Care Nursery. The NICN provides specialized, high-level care for babies at risk for neurological injury. We are also at the forefront of research studying brain malformations in newborns, particularly premature babies.

UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your child's doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your child's provider.

Where to get care (2)

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Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery (NICN)

Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery (NICN)

San Francisco / Oakland

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Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery

Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery

San Francisco / Oakland

Our research initiatives

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    UCSF Newborn Brain Research Institute

    The Newborn Brain Research Institute promotes brain development and recovery by leveraging clinical excellence, a cutting-edge data hub and innovative basic and clinical research.

Special programs

Fetal Neurology Center of Excellence

Our specialists, leaders in the new field of fetal neurology, can provide prenatal diagnoses of birth defects that may affect the baby's nervous system.

Awards & recognition

  • One of the nation's best in neurology & neurosurgery

  • in NIH funding among U.S. neurology programs

  • Ranked among the nation's best in 10 specialties

Tender wagging care

Our therapy dogs spread joy and smiles at the bedside and throughout the hospital.

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