Frequently Asked Questions
If you are just learning about your child’s diagnosis, then you have many questions. Below are some of the most common and basic questions about the syndrome.
- What is a syndrome?
- Why is it called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS)?
- How many people have CdLS?
- Is life expectancy known?
- Are intellectual delays always present?
- What causes CdLS?
- Is CdLS hereditary?
- Can CdLS be detected before birth?
What is a syndrome?
"Syndrome" is a medical term for a condition in which there is a collection of signs (observable body changes) and symptoms (problems observed by the patient) recognizable by a doctor's exam. Individuals with a syndrome may not have all of its associated signs and symptoms, but they must have enough to be considered "diagnostic." Just because someone may display some of the signs and symptoms of a syndrome, does not necessarily mean they have it.
Why is it called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS)?
In 1933, Dutch pediatrician Dr. Cornelia de Lange described two children with similar features. The first child had pneumonia and feeding difficulties. She was very small for her age, with a proportionately smaller head circumference. Other unusual facial characteristics were noted by Dr. de Lange. Soon after, she saw a second little girl with common medical problems and physical characteristics. Nowhere was the puzzled physician able to find a similar patient described in medical literature. Cornelia de Lange is now generally credited with describing the collection of symptoms comprising the syndrome that bears her name.
The syndrome is sometimes referred to as Brachmann-de Lange Syndrome after Dr. W. Brachmann, who described a similar patient in 1916. Dr. de Lange may have overlooked his report because he concentrated on characteristics of the upper limbs and wrote on the facial symptoms less specifically.
How many people have CdLS?
The exact incidence is unclear, but it is thought to be approximately 1 in 10,000 live births. The CdLS Foundation serves about 2,500 people with the syndrome in the U.S.
Is life expectancy known?
It is expected that most children with CdLS will live well into adulthood; however, each child must be evaluated for life-threatening conditions such as heart defects, untreated gastroesophageal reflux, and bowel abnormalities.
Are intellectual delays always present?
Yes, usually, ranging from mild to profound. The majority fall in the mild to moderate range.
What causes CdLS?
Researchers have identified three separate genes (NIPBL, SMC1A and SMC3) that, when altered, cause CdLS.
Is CdLS hereditary?
Not in the usual sense of a gene passing directly from parent to child. Genetic changes occur in individuals with CdLS that typically are not present in their parents, meaning that a new change developed sporadically in those individuals resulting in CdLS. However, there are rare cases when the gene change exists in an unaffected parent’s egg or sperm, resulting in CdLS in the child. Additionally, a person with CdLS who has a child of his or her own can pass the gene change on to the child.
Can CdLS be detected before birth?
High resolution ultrasound may be useful to monitor for unusually poor fetal growth or detectable limb abnormalities. Please see Prenatal Diagnosis of CdLS for more information