Recurrence risks for neural tube defects in siblings of patients with lipomyelomeningocele

Courtney Drake Sebold*, Elizabeth C. Melvin, Debbie Siegel, Lorraine Mehltretter, David S. Enterline, Jeffrey S. Nye, John Kessler, Alexander Bassuk, Marcy C. Speer, Timothy M. George

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Purpose: Neural tube defects (NTDs) are a group of widely varying congenital malformations resulting from incomplete or improper fusion of the neural tube during embryonic development. NTDs are traditionally classified by the presence or absence of a layer of skin covering the spinal defect. Although a genetic component has been well established in the etiology of open NTDs, studies examining the genetics of closed NTDs such as lipomyelomeningocele are rare. We and others have previously observed families in which multiple members were affected with a broad spectrum of NTDs, suggesting the possibility of a common genetic etiology. Methods: We calculated the sibling recurrence risk in 52 pedigrees in which the proband was diagnosed with lipomyelomeningocele (LMM), defining recurrence broadly to include both closed and open neural tube defects. Results: Although no recurrences of LMM were observed among younger siblings, one younger sibling had myelomeningocele, yielding an estimate of recurrence risk of 0.04 (95% Cl 0.01-0.20). When all siblings of the proband were included, two additional affected siblings were identified, one with anencephaly and another with fatty filum, yielding an estimate of recurrence risk of 0.043 (95% Cl 0.01-0.12). Conclusions: Although the sample size is small, these data are not inconsistent with recurrence risks for myelomeningocele, ranging from 2% to 5% in siblings. These data suggest the underlying genetic basis for closed defects may be the same or closely related to that for myelomeningocele in some families, although a larger sample will be necessary before these data are appropriate for use in a clinical setting. Further characterizations, including whether risk for recurrence of NTDs or LMM in families in which the proband is affected with LMM are altered by folate supplementation, may shed light on the underlying genetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-67
Number of pages4
JournalGenetics in Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Closed NTDs
  • Congenital malformations
  • Lipomyelomeningocele
  • Neural tube defects
  • Sibling recurrence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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