When nervous system disorders are present at birth, patients seek treatment from pediatric neurosurgeons, pediatric neurologists and pediatric rehabilitation specialists. But when those same conditions appear later in life, patients often don't know where to turn. The neurosurgery program at the University of Chicago Medicine is one of the few programs in the country dedicated to providing comprehensive care for children and adults with congenital anomalies of the central nervous system (CNS).

The Margaret Hackett Family Program

The Margaret Hackett Family Program (MHFP) at UChicago Medicine is available as a centralized source for information on CNS congenital anomalies. Patients and families can utilize this program to find resources to help them better understand their diagnoses and options. In addition, the program has an established network of medical professionals with expertise in treating patients with such anomalies, and drive research focused on advancing understanding of these conditions and developing improved treatments. 

Learn more about the Margaret Hackett Family Program:

Congenital Anomalies We Treat

CNS congenital anomalies are birth defects of the physical structure of the brain or spinal cord that develop in utero, or when a fetus is developing during pregnancy. This blanket term encompasses a broad range of disorders and medical conditions, from minor abnormalities to severe ones. There are other congenital anomalies that impact the growth or development of the central nervous system and are often considered central nervous system diseases.

Some congenital anomalies we treat:

In addition, UChicago Medicine is home to nationally known programs for adults with neurofibromatosis and tuberous sclerosis.

A wide range of factors can contribute to CNS congenital anomalies, such as:

  • Genetic factors
  • Exposure to substances such as alcohol, drugs, medications, environmental toxins or other toxins
  • Certain viruses that infect the baby while in the womb

However, in many cases there are no known or identifiable causes.

Symptoms of CNS congenital anomalies will vary depending on the nature and severity of the condition and can be different for everyone.

Some physical challenges can include:

  • Loss of strength and movement
  • Cognitive weakness
  • Stiffness and spasticity
  • Progressive loss of bodily functions and autonomic control
  • Delayed growth
  • Severe pain

At UChicago Medicine, adult patients have access to the same team of experts that treats these conditions in children. As a result, they receive compassionate care from skilled physicians who understand the complexities of congenital anomalies, yet recognize the unique challenges that adult patients can face.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended to: 

  • Relieve symptoms 
  • Correct the function and form of the brain and/or the structure of the spine 
  • Maximize cognitive motor function 
  • Prevent development or progression of neurological deficits 

Our team will evaluate and perform a variety of tests to the find the best treatment option to help patients achieve the best physical and psychological condition possible. 

The resources listed below provide additional information about some common congenital anomalies of the nervous system.

For Spina Bifida, Tethered Spinal Cord & Other Congenital Malformations of the Spine:

For Hydrocephalus:

For Chiari Malformation & Syringomyelia:

The University of Chicago Medicine provides links to other organizations as a service to our site visitors. We are not responsible for information or services provided on other websites.

For more information about CNS congenital anomalies and the Margaret Hackett Family Program, email mhfcp@bsd.uchicago.edu or call 773-795-0622.

Hackett Family

Neurosurgeon treats rare central nervous system disorders

After several surgeries, a family turned to UChicago Medicine to treat their daughter's rare central nervous system congenital anomalies.

Read more about Margaret's story

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