Although there are known risk factors for the development of neural tube defects (NTDs), little is known regarding the role of family history. The authors' goal in this study is to describe the family history in their population of patients with NTDs.
Surveys were completed for 254 patients who were accompanied by their biological mother during their annual visit to the multidisciplinary Spina Bifida Clinic at Children's of Alabama. An NTD has been diagnosed in all patients who are seen in this clinic (myelomeningocele, lipomeningocele, split cord malformation, and congenital dermal sinus tract). Each mother answered questions regarding known NTD risk factors and their pregnancy, as well as the family history of NTDs, other CNS disorders, and birth defects.
The overall prevalence of family history of NTDs in children with an NTD was 16.9% (n = 43), of which 3.1% (n = 8) were in first-degree relatives. In patients with myelomeningocele, 17.7% (n = 37) had a positive family history for NTDs, with 3.8% in first-degree relatives. Family history in the paternal lineage for all NTDs was 8.7% versus 10.6% in the maternal lineage. Twenty-two patients (8.7%) had a family history of other congenital CNS disorders. Fifteen (5.9%) had a family history of Down syndrome, 12 (4.7%) had a family history of cerebral palsy, and 13 (5.1%) patients had a family history of clubfoot. Fourteen (5.5%) had a family history of cardiac defect, and 13 (5.1%) had a family history of cleft lip or palate.
The family history of NTDs was 16.9% in children with NTD without a difference between maternal and paternal lineage. This high rate of positive family history suggests that genetics and epigenetics may play a larger role in the pathogenesis of NTD in the modern era of widespread folate supplementation.