Cephalic disorders are congenital conditions that stem from damage to, or abnormal development of, the budding nervous system. Cephalic is a term that means “head” or “head end of the body.” Congenital means the disorder is present at, and usually before, birth. Although there are many congenital developmental disorders, this fact sheet briefly describes only cephalic conditions.The disorder is one of the most common disorders of the fetal central nervous system. Approximately 1,000 to 2,000 American babies are born with anencephaly each year. The disorder affects females more often than males.
Cephalic disorders are not necessarily caused by a single factor, but may be influenced by hereditary or genetic conditions, or by environmental exposures during pregnancy such as medication taken by the mother, maternal infection, or exposure to radiation. Some cephalic disorders occur when the cranial sutures (the fibrous joints that connect the bones of the skull) join prematurely. Most cephalic disorders are caused by a disturbance that occurs very early in the development of the fetal nervous system.