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Achondroplasia

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Achondroplasia is a disorder of bone growth that causes the most common type of dwarfism.

Achondroplasia is one of a group of disorders called chondrodystrophies, or osteochondrodysplasias.

Achondroplasia may be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait, which means that if a child gets the defective gene from one parent, the child will have the disorder. If one parent has achondroplasia, the infant has a 50% chance of inheriting the disorder. If both parents have the condition, the infant's chances of being affected increase to 75%.

However, most cases appear as spontaneous mutations. This means that two parents without achondroplasia may give birth to a baby with the condition.

Symptoms

The typical appearance of achondroplastic dwarfism can be seen at birth. Symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

During pregnancy, a prenatal ultrasound may show excessive amniotic fluid surrounding the unborn infant.

Examination of the infant after birth shows increased front-to-back head size. There may be signs of hydrocephalus ("water on the brain").

X-rays of the long bones can reveal achondroplasia in the newborn.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for achondroplasia. Related abnormalities, including spinal stenosis and spinal cord compression, should be treated when they cause problems.

Outlook (Prognosis)

People with achondroplasia seldom reach 5 feet (1.5 meters) in height. Intelligence is in the normal range. Infants who receive the abnormal gene from both parents do not often live beyond a few months.

Possible Complications

Health problems that may develop include:

  • Breathing problems from a small upper airway and from pressure on the area of the brain that controls breathing
  • Lung problems from a small ribcage

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If there is a family history of achondroplasia and you plan to have children, you may find it helpful to speak to your health care provider.

Prevention

Genetic counseling may be helpful for prospective parents when one or both have achondroplasia. However, because achondroplasia most often develops spontaneously, prevention is not always possible.

References

Hernandez-Andrade E, Yeo L, Goncalves LF, Leuwan S, Garcia M, Romero R. Fetal musculoskeletal system. In: Norton ME, Scoutt LM, Feldstein VA, eds. Callen's Ultrasonography in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 11.

Horton WA, Hecht JT. Disorders involving transmembrane receptors. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 696.

Krakow D. FGFR3 disorders: thanatophoric dysplasia, achondroplasia, and hypochondroplasia. In: Copel JA, D'Alton ME, Feltovich H, et al, eds. Obstetric Imaging: Fetal Diagnosis and Care. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 50.

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        Review Date: 10/18/2017

        Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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