Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome
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Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome

Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome (abbreviated BWS) is an overgrowth disorder usually (but not always) present at birth characterized by an increased risk of childhood cancer and certain congenital features. Originally, Dr.Hans-Rudolf Wiedemann coined the term exomphalos-macroglossia-gigantism (EMG) syndrome to describe the combination of congenital abdominal wall defects as hernia (exomphalos), large tongues (macroglossia), and large bodies and/or long limbs (gigantism). Over time, this constellation was renamed Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome following the autoptical observations of Prof. John Bruce Beckwith, who observed also severe increase in the size of the adrenal glands in some of these patients. Five common features used to define BWS are: macroglossia, macrosomia (birth weight and length greater than the 90th percentile), midline abdominal wall defects (omphalocele/exomphalos, umbilical hernia, diastasis recti), ear creases or ear pits, and neonatal hypoglycemia (low blood sugar after birth).


Most children with BWS do not have all of these five features. In addition, some children with BWS have other findings including: nevus flammeus, prominent occiput, midface hypoplasia, hemihypertrophy, genitourinary anomalies (enlarged kidneys), cardiac anomalies, musculoskeletal abnormalities, and hearing loss. Also, some premature newborns with BWS do not have macroglossia until closer to their anticipated delivery date.

Given the variation among individuals with BWS and the lack of a simple diagnostic test, identifying BWS can be difficult. In an attempt to standardize the classification of BWS, DeBaun et al. have defined a child as having BWS if the child has been diagnosed by a physician as having BWS and if the child has at least two of the five common features associated with BWS (macroglossia, macrosomia, midline abdominal wall defects, ear creases/ear pits, neonatal hypoglycemia). Another definition presented by Elliot et al. includes the presence of either three major features (anterior abdominal wall defect, macroglossia, or prepostnatal overgrowth) or two major plus three minor findings (ear pits, nevus flammeus, neonatal hypoglycemia, nephromegaly, or hemihyperplasia).

While most children with BWS do not develop cancer, children with BWS do have a significantly increased risk of cancer. Children with BWS are most at risk during early childhood and should receive cancer screening during this time.

In general, children with BWS do very well and grow up to become adults of normal size and intelligence, usually without the syndromic features of their childhood.

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