Children's Hospital Colorado

Pentalogy of Cantrell

What is pentalogy of Cantrell?

Pentalogy of Cantrell is an unusual form of abdominal wall defect that consists of five (penta in ancient Greek) associated anomalies. Because this condition can drastically affect development, the Colorado Fetal Care Center is here to offer families support from our highly experienced team. With many years treating pentalogy of Cantrell and thanks to our state-of-the-art center, we provide some of the best outcomes for babies diagnosed with this condition.

Pentalogy of Cantrell is a rare and severe abdominal wall defect that consists of five abnormalities:

  • Midline abdominal wall defect, covered by a thin membrane 
  • Defect of the lower sternum
  • Deficiency of the anterior diaphragm
  • Defect in the diaphragmatic pericardium, where the heart meets the diaphragm
  • Various heart defects 

Not every case has all five factors, with the majority featuring just a few. Some babies born with the condition also have associated anomalies, like cleft lip or cleft palate.

In pentalogy of Cantrell, the heart is oriented more vertically in the chest and there usually are sometimes, but not always, defects within the heart (referred to as intracardiac anomalies). The most common defect is a hole in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart (referred to as the ventricles) that is called a ventricular septal defect. The hands and spine are also commonly abnormal in this condition. If there is a particular defect in the abdominal wall called an omphalocele, then your doctor or the team at the Colorado Fetal Care Center likely will recommend genetic studies to help determine the cause of this condition.

What causes pentalogy of Cantrell?

Pentalogy of Cantrell is thought to occur randomly, although African Americans and males may be more likely to develop pentalogy of Cantrell. The condition is thought to occur between 1 in every 65,000 births or as low as 1 in every 200,000 births.

In some cases, there might be a genetic component. A genetic cause means the baby's chromosomes (considered to be the baby's "blueprint") are abnormal. Whatever the underlying cause, the result is that certain key steps in the first few weeks of conception did not occur normally. It is important to understand that the mother did nothing to cause this condition.

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Traci Nivens, MD

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