BACKGROUND: During the last decade, descriptions of malformation complexes involving an abdominal wall defect (AWD) have repeatedly appeared in the literature, and there has been frequent confusion regarding nomenclature, definitions, and delineations. The aims of this work were to evaluate possible embryological relationships among AWD cases, review the related nomenclature, identify patterns involving AWDs, and stress the importance of complete clinical descriptions. METHODS Cases diagnosed as AWD complexes were selected from live- and stillborn infants of the Hospital Materno Infantil Sardá, Buenos Aires, and from the Laboratory of Perinatal Pathology, Buenos Aires, Argentina. They were sorted by the location of the AWD, the umbilical cord length, and the presence or absence of a persistent cloaca. The findings in 26 cases were described, according to proposed definitions. RESULTS: Three patterns could be identified: 1) the AWD involving the umbilical ring, a persistent or exstrophic cloaca, and a spinal cord anomaly; 2) the AWD extending laterally to the umbilical ring, severe unilateral limb defects, and same-sided agenesis of abdominal organs; and 3) the AWD not involving the umbilical ring, clefts, exencephaly, and amputations. Furthermore, overlapping among these patterns was observed, and possible involved mechanisms are discussed. CONCLUSIONS: The observed overlapping among patterns suggested that malformation complexes involving AWDs might not be independent conditions but rather belong to a common and broader spectrum of anomalies. Complete clinical descriptions, the avoidance of synonyms and generalizations, and strictly defined inclusion criteria are proposed for a better understanding of pathogenetic pathways in, and relationships among, AWD complexes. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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