A developmental classification of malformations of the brainstem

A. James Barkovich, Kathleen J. Millen, William B. Dobyns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Objective: With advances in imaging and genetics, malformations of the brainstem are being more commonly identified. We describe and classify brainstem anomalies in 138 patients ascertained over a period of 10 years. Methods: Magnetic resonance imaging studies and, where available, clinical records of the patients were retrospectively reviewed. Malformations were segregated according to magnetic resonance findings and classified when possible by embryological mechanisms. Results: The most common location for anomalies was the pons, which was involved in 114 patients. The midbrain was involved in 45 patients, whereas the medulla was involved in 14. In 53 patients, more than 1 region was affected (all 3 regions in 6 patients, midbrain and pons in 39, and medulla and pons in 8). The malformations were divided into four groups: (1) malformations with abnormal brainstem segmentation, (2) malformations with segmental hypoplasia, (3) postsegmentation malformations, and (4) malformations associated with abnormal cortical organization. Interpretation: The malformations of the brainstem identified in this study were diverse and complex. This proposed classification organizes them into groupings based on known genetics and embryological events. Use of this system will help clinicians and scientists to better understand these disorders and, ultimately, to better counsel families of affected patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-639
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

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