Acrania anencephaly sequence

Acrania anencephaly sequence is the progression from a relatively normal-appearing brain (acrania) to an amorphous brain mass (exencephaly) to no recognizable brain tissue (anencephaly) 1.

The acrania anencephaly sequence begins with acrania, which is the most common anomaly affecting the central nervous system with an incidence of ~1:1000 pregnancies 1.

The abnormality occurs at the beginning of the fourth week when the anterior neuropore closes. The normal migration of mesenchymal tissue which is supposed to form the cranium does not occur. The overlying ectoderm remains the only covering as a thin amnion-like membrane. The calvarium, muscles of the scalp and the dura are not formed. In the absence of induction from the neurocranium, the cerebral tissue fails to differentiate into two hemispheres 2.

Acrania exposes the brain to the amniotic fluid with a risk of friction with uterine wall, placenta and fetal parts; this condition is called exencephaly 3. In this circumstance, the unprotected brain tissue undergoes progressive destruction and degeneration due to mechanical and chemical trauma, leading to complete or almost complete disappearance of the brain from 14 weeks onward. The damaged brain tissue can be seen on ultrasound as echogenic particles in the amniotic fluid 4.


In the first trimester scans, there is a normal amount of brain tissue present which when seen in the coronal plane of fetus results in Mickey mouse sign due to two semi-circular structures floating above the fetal face just like rounded ears of Mickey Mouse.

In the second trimester, a significant amount of brain tissue is lost resulting in frog face sign due to an absence of recognizable tissue upwards of fetal orbit level 3.

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Article Information

rID: 27090
Section: Pathology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Acrania - anencephaly sequence

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