“Hypo” is a prefix meaning “below” or “less.” It follows that this dysplasia is considered a more mild or atypical form of achondroplasia. The incidence of hypochondroplasia is approximately 180,000 to 312,000 live births (2).
Hypochondroplasia is genetically heterogeneous. Approximately one-half of hypochondroplastic patients have a mutation within the fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) gene (2).
Due to its mild nature, it is often times difficult to differentiate between “familial” shortness of stature and hypochondroplasia. Hypochondroplasia seems to be the grey area between achondroplasia and being constitutionally shorter than average. The average adult height of hypochondroplastic patient varies between 52 and 58 inches.
The major radiographic features of hypochondroplasia include narrowing of interpediculate distances with anterioposterior shortening of pedicles. Vertebral bodies in lumbar region of spine have increased dorsal concavity. The height of the vertebral bodies is normal. The deformities of the spine, however, are not as pronounced as in the case of achondroplasia.
The pelvis is square with short ilia, although the flare of the iliac crests is normal. The sacrum is hypoplastic and low set on the iliac bones, effectively narrowing the transverse diameter of the pelvis. The tubular bones are short and with mild metaphyseal flare (most evident at the knees). The styloid processes of the ulnae are frequently long. Femoral necks are short and broad.
Distal fibulae are long in comparison to tibia. In children, growth plates of distal femurs exhibit a shallow, V-shaped indentation. This is due to slower enchondral bone growth at the center of the growth plate as compared to growth at the periphery. Again, this change is more mild in hypochondroplasia than in achondroplasia. Generalized brachydactyly is mild to moderate. Occasionally, the neurocranium is slightly larger.
Considering that the skeletal deformities of hypochondroplasia are moderately similar to those of achondroplasia, radiographic findings must be well-scrutinized to give a correct diagnosis. The best features to examine are the skull and pelvis; each are more severely affected in the case of achondroplasia.
In order to differentiate between hypochondroplasia and familial short stature, vertebral and pelvic changes should be considered. Vertebral abnormalities are characteristic only of hypochondroplasia. The appearance of the long bones may be similar to metaphyseal chondrodysplasia, Schmid type. Again, the differential feature is the vertebral abnormalities, which are only present in hypochondroplastic patients. It is difficult to diagnosis hypochondroplasia in infancy, although birth length may be slightly below average. By 3 years of age, slow growth and bowlegs are early indicators of this skeletal dysplasia.
Genu varum and outward bowing become pronounced as children age and weight bearing increases. Surgical straightening may be necessary.
Inversion of the Feet
Inversion of the feet may result becuase of the relatively longer fibulae.
Considerable discomfort in the knees, ankles, or elbows may occur, especially during childhood. Into adulthood, the pain is most prominent in the lower back.
Spinal stenosis may result in cord compression. Symptoms include activity-related leg pain that is relieved on squatting down, tingling, pins and needles, numbness in the feet (paraesthesias), weakness of the legs, or disturbances in control of bladder or bowel function (incontinence). X-rays, CT and MRI scans of the lower spine, confirm the diagnosis. Obesity greatly increases the risk of this problem developing.
Approximately 10% of hypochondroplastic persons have learning problems.
Compressive myelopathy and radiculopathy occur, albeit less frequent
Woman who become pregnant often times require a cesarean section, albeit vaginal delivery is still possible.
Considering that the course and complications of hypochondroplasia are slightly different from achondroplasia, it is important for a radiologist to correctly diagnosis this specific skeletal dysplasia early on.
For children and adults of any size or stature, obesity should be avoided. However, in the case of hypochondroplasia, patients must put forth greater effort to stay active and physically fit. Increased weight bearing of the joints can lead to extreme discomfort and possible neurological complications. Diminishing motor milestones, decreased endurance, apnea or any neurological symptoms should be quickly evaluated by an experienced physician.
Generally all skeletal dysplasias warrant multidisciplinary attention. Regular assessment by an orthopedist, geneticist, pediatrician, dentist, neurologist, and physical therapist will provide the most comprehensive treatment.
- Desch, Larry W. Horton, Willaim A. An Autosomal Recessive Bone Dysplasia Syndrome Resembling Hypochondroplasia. Pediatrics. 75, No 4: 786-789. 1985.
- Jones, Kenneth L. Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders. 2006
- Newman, Donald E. Dunbar, Scott. Hypochondroplasia. Journal of the Canadian Association of Radiologists. 26: 95-103. 1975.
- Scott, Charles I. Dwarfism. Clinical Symposium, 1988; 40(1):9-10.
- Spranger, Jurgen W. Brill, Paula W. Poznanski, Andrew. Bone Dysplasias: An Atlas of Genetic Disorder of Skeletal Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2002.
- Walker, Bryan A. Murdoch, Lamont J. McKusick, Victor A. Langer, Leonard O. Beals, Rodney K. Hypochondroplasia. American Journal of Disease of Children. 122: 95-104. 1971.
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All About Genetics
What do you know about your family tree? Have any of your relatives had health problems that tend to run in families? Which of these problems affected your parents or grandparents? Which ones affect you or your brothers or sisters now? Which problems might you pass on to your children?
Thanks to advances in medical research, doctors now have the tools to understand much about how certain illnesses, or increased risks for certain illnesses, pass from generation to generation. Here are some basics about genetics.
Genes and Chromosomes
Each of us has a unique set of chemical blueprints affecting how our body looks and functions. These blueprints are contained in our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), long, spiral-shaped molecules found inside every cell. DNA carries the codes for genetic information and is made of linked subunits called nucleotides. Each nucleotide contains a phosphate molecule, a sugar molecule (deoxyribose), and one of four coding molecules called bases (adenine, guanine, cytosine, or thymine). The sequence of these four bases determines the genetic code.
The specific segments of DNA that contain the instructions for making specific body proteins are called genes. Right now, scientists believe that human DNA carries from 25,000 to 35,000 genes. Some genes direct the formation of proteins that eventually determine physical features such as brown eyes or curly hair. Others provide instructions for the body to produce important chemicals called enzymes (which help control the chemical reactions in the body).
Sometimes, depending on the codes of a specific gene, even a small error within the DNA structure can mean serious problems for the entire body. Sometimes, an error in just one gene can result in a life that's shortened or physically difficult.
Genes are found in specific segments along the length of human DNA, neatly packaged within structures called chromosomes. Every human cell contains 46 chromosomes, arranged as 23 pairs (called autosomes), with one member of each pair inherited from each parent at the time of conception. After conception, the chromosomes duplicate again and again to pass on the same genetic information to each new cell in the developing child. Twenty two autosomes are the same in males and females. In addition, females have two X chromosomes and males have one X and one Y chromosome. The X and the Y are known as sex chromosomes.
Human chromosomes are large enough to be seen with a high-powered microscope, and the 23 pairs can be identified according to differences in their size, shape, and the way they pick up special laboratory dyes.
Abnormal Numbers of Chromosomes (Trisomies and Monosomies)
Genetic problems can happen for many reasons. Sometimes, a mistake occurs during cell division, causing an error in the chromosome number either before or shortly after conception. The developing embryo then grows from cells that have either too many chromosomes or too few.
In trisomy, for example, there are three copies of one particular chromosome instead of the normal two (one from each parent). Down syndrome, trisomy 18 (Edwards) syndrome, and trisomy 13 (Patau) syndrome are examples of this type of genetic problem.
Trisomy 18 syndrome affects 1 out of every 3,000 newborns. Children with this syndrome have a low birth weight and a small head, mouth, and jaw. Their hands typically form closed fists with abnormal finger positioning. They also might have malformations involving the hips and feet, heart and kidney problems, and intellectual disability (also called mental retardation). Only about 5% of these children live longer than 1 year.
Trisomy 13 syndrome affects 1 out of every 5,000 newborns. This syndrome causes cleft lip, flexed fingers with extra digits, hemangiomas (blood vessel malformations) of the face and neck, and many different structural abnormalities of the skull and face. It can also cause malformations of the ribs, heart, abdominal organs, and sex organs. Long-term survival is unlikely but possible.
In monosomy, another form of number error, one member of a chromosome pair is missing. There are too few chromosomes rather than too many.
Deletions, Translocations, and Inversions
Sometimes it's not the number of chromosomes that's the problem, but that chromosomes are incomplete or abnormally shaped. In both deletions and microdeletions, for example, some small part of a chromosome is missing. In a microdeletion, the missing part of a chromosome is usually so small that it amounts to a single gene or only a few genes.
Important genetic disorders caused by deletions and microdeletions include Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (affects chromosome 4), Cri-du-chat syndrome (chromosome 5), DiGeorge syndrome (chromosome 22), and Williams syndrome (chromosome 7).
In translocations (which affect 1 out of every 500 newborns), bits of chromosomes shift from one chromosome to another. Most translocations are "balanced," which means there is no net gain or loss of genetic material; some are "unbalanced," which means some genetic material is extra or missing.With inversions (which affect about 1 out of every 100 newborns), small parts of the DNA code seem to be snipped out and reinserted flipped over. Translocations may be either inherited from a parent or arise spontaneously in a child's own chromosomes.
Both balanced translocations and inversions typically cause no malformations or developmental problems in the kids who have them. However, adults with either translocations or inversions who wish to become parents may have an increased risk of miscarriage or chromosome abnormalities in their own children. Unbalanced translocations or inversions are associated with developmental and/or physical abnormalities.
Genetic Problems (cont.)
Genetic problems also occur when abnormalities affect the sex chromosomes. Normally, a child will be a male if he inherits one X chromosome from his mother and one Y chromosome from his father. A child will be a female if she inherits a double dose of X (one from each parent) and no Y.
Sometimes, however, children are born with only one sex chromosome (usually a single X) or with an extra X or Y. Turner syndrome is the name of the disorder affecting girls born with only one X chromosome, whereas boys with Klinefelter syndrome are born with XXY or XXXY.
Sometimes, too, a genetic problem is X-linked, meaning that it's associated with change in a gene carried by the X chromosome. Fragile X syndrome, which causes intellectual disability in boys, is one such disorder. Other diseases that are carried by genes on the X chromosome include hemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Females may be carriers of these diseases, but because they also inherit a normal X chromosome, the effects of the gene change on the affected X will be reduced. Males, on the other hand, only have one X chromosome and are almost always the ones who have the substantial effects of the X-linked disorder.
Some genetic problems are caused by a single gene that's present but altered in some way. Such changes in genes are called mutations. When there is a mutation in a gene, the number and appearance of the chromosomes is usually still entirely normal. To pinpoint the defective gene, scientists use sophisticated DNA screening techniques. Some examples of genetic illnesses caused by a single problem gene include: phenylketonuria (PKU), cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, and achondroplasia (a type of dwarfism).
Although experts originally believed that no more than 3% of all human diseases were caused by errors in a single gene, new research suggests that this may be an underestimate. Within the last few years, scientists have discovered genetic links to many different diseases that weren't originally thought of as genetic, including several different types of cancer.
Oncogenes (Cancer-Causing Genes)
Researchers have identified 20 to 30 cancer-susceptibility genes that greatly increase a person's odds of getting some form of malignancy. For example, a gene on chromosome number 9 may be linked to basal cell carcinoma, a common skin cancer. This gene, labeled PTC or patched, someday might be important in screening for this type of cancer. Another gene (HNPCC) that is carried by 1 out of every 300 Americans might greatly increase someone's risk for colon cancer. And the doubly dangerous gene BRCA-1 seems to give women an 85% chance of developing breast cancer as well as a 50% chance of ovarian tumors.
Other Genetically Linked Diseases
Altered genes may play a role in the development of many other devastating illnesses. Parkinson's disease, for example, may be linked to a gene on chromosome number 4, and multiple sclerosis may be linked to alterations in a gene on chromosome number 6. Alzheimer's disease, linked to a gene on chromosome 19, can already be diagnosed (in some cases) by screening for that altered gene, although such screening is viewed by many as controversial.
Although heart disease and diabetes appear to be related to simultaneous changes in many different genes, the first of these may already have been identified. According to the American Heart Association, this gene may be an artery-clogging gene that almost doubles the risk of fatty deposits blocking the coronary arteries. Having the gene may also triple someone's chances of getting adult-onset diabetes.
It's important to note that much of the newest information from genetic research has not yet been translated into useful screening tests. However, experts predict that this will soon change, and they estimate that the number of available genetic tests will increase dramatically in the years to come.