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The trisomy 18 syndrome

Anna Cereda1 and John C Carey2*

Author Affiliations

1 Ambulatorio Genetica Clinica Pediatrica, Clinica Pediatrica Universita Milano Bicocca, Fondazione MBBM A.O, S, Gerardo Monza, Italy

2 Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah, 419 Wakara Way Suite 213, Salt Lake City, UT, 84108, USA

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Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2012, 7:81  doi:10.1186/1750-1172-7-81

Published: 23 October 2012

Abstract

The trisomy 18 syndrome, also known as Edwards syndrome, is a common chromosomal disorder due to the presence of an extra chromosome 18, either full, mosaic trisomy, or partial trisomy 18q. The condition is the second most common autosomal trisomy syndrome after trisomy 21. The live born prevalence is estimated as 1/6,000-1/8,000, but the overall prevalence is higher (1/2500-1/2600) due to the high frequency of fetal loss and pregnancy termination after prenatal diagnosis. The prevalence of trisomy 18 rises with the increasing maternal age. The recurrence risk for a family with a child with full trisomy 18 is about 1%.

Currently most cases of trisomy 18 are prenatally diagnosed, based on screening by maternal age, maternal serum marker screening, or detection of sonographic abnormalities (e.g., increased nuchal translucency thickness, growth retardation, choroid plexus cyst, overlapping of fingers, and congenital heart defects ). The recognizable syndrome pattern consists of major and minor anomalies, prenatal and postnatal growth deficiency, an increased risk of neonatal and infant mortality, and marked psychomotor and cognitive disability. Typical minor anomalies include characteristic craniofacial features, clenched fist with overriding fingers, small fingernails, underdeveloped thumbs, and short sternum. The presence of major malformations is common, and the most frequent are heart and kidney anomalies. Feeding problems occur consistently and may require enteral nutrition.

Despite the well known infant mortality, approximately 50% of babies with trisomy 18 live longer than 1 week and about 5-10% of children beyond the first year. The major causes of death include central apnea, cardiac failure due to cardiac malformations, respiratory insufficiency due to hypoventilation, aspiration, or upper airway obstruction and, likely, the combination of these and other factors (including decisions regarding aggressive care). Upper airway obstruction is likely more common than previously realized and should be investigated when full care is opted by the family and medical team.

The complexity and the severity of the clinical presentation at birth and the high neonatal and infant mortality make the perinatal and neonatal management of babies with trisomy 18 particularly challenging, controversial, and unique among multiple congenital anomaly syndromes. Health supervision should be diligent, especially in the first 12 months of life, and can require multiple pediatric and specialist evaluations.