A US boy who survived three years without a brain has died.
Nickolas Coke surprised doctors after he was born with only a brain stem. Most babies with that condition are stillborn or die shortly after birth.
According to KOAA-TV, the boy survived without medical equipment and was playing with pumpkins before he died earlier this week.
Nickolas' condition is known as anencephaly. The Coke family lives in Pueblo, outside Colorado Springs.
What is anecephaly?
According to the US National Library of Medicine, anencephaly is one of the most common neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are birth defects that affect the tissue that grows into the spinal cord and brain.
It typically occurs early in the development of an unborn baby and results when the upper part of the neural tube fails to close. Why this happens is not known. Possible causes include environmental toxins and low intake of folic acid by the mother during pregnancy.
Anencephaly occurs in about 1 out of 10,000 births. The exact number is unknown, because many of these pregnancies result in miscarriage. Having one infant with this condition increases the risk of having another child with neural tube defects.
Symptoms of anencephaly
- Absence of the skull
- Absence of the brain (cerebral hemispheres and cerebellum)
- Facial feature abnormalities
- Heart defects
Signs and tests
The US National Library of Medicine states that a pregnancy ultrasound is the best way to confirm a diagnosis and will often then reveal too much fluid is in the uterus. This condition is called polyhydramnios.
Other tests performed include:
Amniocentesis (to look for increased levels of alpha-fetoprotein)
Alpha-fetoprotein level (increased levels suggest a neural tube defect)
Urine estriol level
A pre-pregnancy serum folic acid test may also be done.
(Source: AP, US National Library of Medicine)
AFP test in pregnancy