Encephalomalacia is counted among the most serious types of brain damage that can affect individuals from various age groups. Read on to find out about the disorder, its causes, treatment options and more.
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It is a condition characterized by localized softening of brain tissues due to inflammation or hemorrhage. The softening may occur in a specific part of the brain or may be more widespread. In some rare cases, deterioration or degeneration of the brain may lead to extensive softening of the substances within. It can affect different parts of the organ and damage tissues in the frontal lobe, occipital lobe, parietal lobe as well as the temporal lobe.
The disease leads causes to completely stoppage of working of the affected part of the brain. It affects both adults and children and can even occur in utero.
The disorder is also known as Cerebral Softening.Image: Encephalomalacia
Source: via Wikimedia Commons
According to the part of the brain that is affected, the condition can be divided into the following two types:
- Leukoencephalomalacia (Encephalomalacia affecting the white matter)
- Polioencephalomalacia (Encephalomalacia affecting the gray matter)
This disorder can also be classified into the three following categories according to their colors and the stages of damage:
- Red softening
- Yellow softening
- White softening
Various diseases and health conditions can cause this decline in the brain. The disorder generally occurs due to a stroke or some serious head injury which can lead to bleeding or hemorrhage into the brain. Cerebral Softening is most commonly seen in areas with an abnormal accumulation of blood.
In some cases, a certain part of the brain may undergo softening due to inadequate blood flow. The disturbance in the blood flow may result from:
- Severe swelling in the brain that interrupts cerebral blood flow
- Removal of tumors from within the brain that have infested and destroyed surrounding tissues
A certain part of the brain dies due to a stroke which causes the neurons to be substituted by scar tissue consisting of astrocytes. This scar tissue undergoes contractions and forms Encephalomalacia in the brain.
Encephalomalacia Signs and Symptoms
An individual with this condition can experience various mild to severe symptoms due to the discontinuation of the functioning of the involved part of the brain. These symptoms include:
- Head pressing
- Head spinning (vertigo)
- Terminal coma
Sometimes, this condition leads to a variation in the size of the brain which may trigger a change in the pliability of the brain.
There is no known way for preventing this condition. An individual may be careful to avoid any severe blow to the head as serious head trauma may result into Cerebral softening. Following a healthy diet, containing plenty of food rich in vitamin E, may also help to reduce the risk of development of this type of brain declination.
Encephalomalacia and Gliosis
These are two completely different conditions that affect the brain. Encephalomalacia refers to the softening of brain matter after a stroke or a severe head trauma while Gliosis is a disease that leads to the development of astrocytes (glial tissue). Imaging tests often show the Gliosis as a “scar” at the brain injury site.
Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan is the most commonly used method for detecting any sign of softening in the brain. CT scan of the brain is another useful diagnostic test.
There are no definite ways of curing this disorder as it is not possible to make destroyed brain tissues start working again. Researchers are still trying to find out whether it is possible to restore normal functionality of the partially affected brain tissues.
The treatment for this disease mainly consists of detecting the underlying cause behind the change in brain consistency and dealing with it properly. In extremely severe cases, damaged brain substance may be removed by surgery. However, the brain consistency undergoes a considerable change due to the removal of the softened brain material. It is still unclear whether the changes in the functional mobility of a brain can ever make the sensations return to normal again.
Experts are trying find out the usefulness of stem cell therapy for treating this brain disorder.
The prognosis is not very good in infants born with Cerebral Softening. In many cases, it is not possible to save the affected child. A patient often suffers from considerable residual neurological deficit even if the doctor succeeds in saving him or her. Early diagnosis and proper management is important to keep Cerebral Softening in control. However, in many cases it is not possible to cure it completely. Encephalomalacia is a severe brain condition which can lead to serious brain damage and impair its functioning.
Adults with this disorder often have a better prognosis with proper treatment. In many cases, the surgical removal of the softened brain matter does not give rise to any serious problems.
Encephalomalacia Life Expectancy
The life expectancy generally varies from one patient to another depending on the duration of the condition. Infants with Cerebral Softening often have a very short lifespan. However, those who develop the disorder at a later age often have a relatively long and normal life on receiving proper treatment.
The following pictures display the altered appearance of a human brain due to the disorder.
Picture 1 – Encephalomalacia
Picture 2 – Encephalomalacia Image
At age 80 my mother has just been diagnosed with Encephalomalacia. Only my beginning of research to understand this disorder I find this website and this article to be very concise. It was encouraging to read that when found in older people the prognosis may be a rather and normal life if it is treated. Thank you.
My brother’s MRI of 2013 showed encephalomalacia. He is now 64 years of age. He had stroke in 2001, then a TBI in Feb. 2013. By Fall of 2013, had a Parkinson’s diagnosis. I see how this all ties together and regret his sloppy and deceiving caregivers did not seek out proper help for him. We have lots to “undo”, and some will be accomplished, but four years of not being given proper care to give him a good quality of life….we can only hope to recover some of it. Severe right MCA territory encephalomalacia.
What is the treatment other than surgery? My 51 year old daughter was diagnosed today.
Due to a brain aneurysm clipping in 1997, I had a stroke during surgery. I have encephalomalacia in the right anterior temporal lobe, anterior aspect of the right caudate and lentiform nuclei, anterior limb of the right internal capsule and the right orbitofrontal parenchyma. I have a disease called Fibromuscular Dysplasia.
Very interesting read. My best friend has this condition and was diagnosed at the age of 30. This document gives a good insight into encephaomalacia.
encephalomalacia with surrounuding gliosis right parietal lobe, likely sequlae of chronic cerebral insult.
I have brain cancer and was never told I have this until I read my MRI yesterday. Then I read my last MRI six months ago which I am to get one every three months but they cost me 175 bucks out of my pocket. I am only 44. I had my first brain surgery at 34 years old. Then a second on a year later. Then in 2012 to 2013 radiation and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy only lasted for two months because my body could not take it. I was told my life span is ten years but I think I will live longer. I hope to make it to my daughters graduation from high school. My husband left me for another woman. Anyway I am a bit upset I was never told I had this. So, do I get another surgery or just say heck who cares..
Janet, you’ve got to be your own advocate in ALL aspects. After repeated MRI’s thru the years, I was never told about a number of small strokes these tests revealed. I’d say the husband showed his value and should be designated to the ‘worthless’ pile. You’ll make it to the daughter’s graduation if by nothing else but grit and determination.
Recently had a MRI that indicated extra-axial space prominence of the small area of Encephalomalacia adjacent to the left middle frontal gurus. I have not had any injury that I know of so what exactly does this mean?! I see the doctor in 2 weeks or so
Was Dx with Encephalomalacia fairly recently. 2-3 months ago. I’ve been an ER RN for my career and had never heard of it. I retired two years early as realized my brain wasn’t exactly helping me out. Never got checked out then. Too embarrassed I guess.
Rec’d consistent head beatings growing up. I’m blaming them. Never had great memorization skills but acquired good observation skills from watching out for that parent!
I was Dx with Encephalomalacia a rather short time ago. Never had good memorization skills but rec’d frequent beatings to the head from alcoholic mother who had me at 16 or 17.
I became an ER RN many years later after I had married/divorced and had two children as well as some siblings from time to time. (Eldest of 12)
I’m now 66 and fight with memory problems on occ. I now feel ridiculous at times. Wonderful other times. Overall I feel there is improvement.
Just don’t know where to go or do next for possible assist in getting something done.
Thank you for your time, any thoughts or suggestions,