Rhombencephalosynapsis: A hindbrain malformation associated with incomplete separation of midbrain and forebrain, hydrocephalus and a broad spectrum of severity

Gisele E. Ishak, Jennifer C. Dempsey, Dennis W.W. Shaw, Hannah Tully, Margaret P. Adam, Pedro A. Sanchez-Lara, Ian Glass, Tessa C. Rue, Kathleen J. Millen, William B. Dobyns, Dan Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Rhombencephalosynapsis is a midline brain malformation characterized by missing cerebellar vermis with apparent fusion of the cerebellar hemispheres. Rhombencephalosynapsis can be seen in isolation or together with other central nervous system and extra-central nervous system malformations. Gómez-López-Hernández syndrome combines rhombencephalosynapsis with parietal/temporal alopecia and sometimes trigeminal anaesthesia, towering skull shape and dysmorphic features. Rhombencephalosynapsis can also be seen in patients with features of vertebral anomalies, anal atresia, cardiovascular anomalies, trachea-oesophageal fistula, renal anomalies, limb defects (VACTERL) association. Based on a comprehensive evaluation of neuroimaging findings in 42 patients with rhombencephalosynapsis, we propose a spectrum of severity, ranging from mild (the partial absence of nodulus, anterior and posterior vermis), to moderate (the absence of posterior vermis with some anterior vermis and nodulus present), to severe (the absence of posterior and anterior vermis with some nodulus present), to complete (the absence of the entire vermis including nodulus). We demonstrate that the severity of rhombencephalosynapsis correlates with fusion of the tonsils, as well as midbrain abnormalities including aqueductal stenosis and midline fusion of the tectum. Rhombencephalosynapsis is also associated with multiple forebrain abnormalities including absent olfactory bulbs, dysgenesis of the corpus callosum, absent septum pellucidum and, in rare patients, atypical forms of holoprosencephaly. The frequent association between rhombencephalosynapsis and aqueductal stenosis prompted us to evaluate brain magnetic resonance images in other patients with aqueductal stenosis at our institution, and remarkably, we identified rhombencephalosynapsis in 9. Strikingly, subjects with more severe rhombencephalosynapsis have more severely abnormal neurodevelopmental outcome, as do subjects with holoprosencephaly and patients with VACTERL features. In summary, our data provide improved diagnostic and prognostic information, and support disruption of dorsal-ventral patterning as a mechanism underlying rhombencephalosynapsis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1370-1386
Number of pages17
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
NIH (grants KL2-RR025015 to D.D. and T.C.R.); (R01-NS050375 to W.B.D. and K.J.M.); CHLA-USC Child Health Research Career Development Program (K12-HD05954 to P.A.S.), by The Arc of Washington Trust Fund (to D.D.); Harold Amos Faculty Development Program through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (to P.A.S.); NIH/NINDS T32 (Grant 5T32NS051171 to H.T.).


  • Gómez-López-Hernández syndrome
  • aqueductal stenosis
  • holoprosencephaly
  • hydrocephalus
  • rhombencephalosynapsis


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