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Encephalomalacia - Symptoms, Prognosis, Treatment, Causes, Diagnosis

Updated on December 9, 2013

What is Encephalomalacia?

Encephalomalacia is the medical term for cerebral softening and is characterized by a local softening of the brain tissue that resulted from injury and inflammation. It is regarded as one of the most serious type of brain damage that can happen to any individual regardless of age and gender. The softening of the brain tissue can occur in a particular part of the brain or it could spread to adjacent areas. The alteration in the pliability of the brain can affect multiple organs thereby altering the normal function of the body and the overall health status of an affected individual as this could also lead to a series of diseases and disorders.

The brain is the core of the central nervous system and is the most complex organ of the body. It is made up different parts which have their own characteristics and functions. The cerebrum is the largest and thinking and reasoning part of the brain. It is also responsible for controlling the voluntary muscles of the body. Both the long-term and short-term memory is confined in the cerebrum while it is divided into two where the left half is deemed controlling the right side of the body and the right half is responsible for controlling the left side of the body.

Next to cerebrum is the cerebellum located just below the cerebrum and at the rear of the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for the balance, coordination and movement of the body. It allows the body to assume a standing position without falling off and is also responsible for the body movement and coordination.

The part of the brain that is in charge of all the functions necessary to keep human survive is the brain stem. It is located just below the cerebrum fronting the cerebellum while it connects the brain to the spinal cord. The brain stem is also responsible for controlling the involuntary muscle and is also responsible for transmitting messages back and forth to different parts of the body to keep them from functioning.

The brain also composed of glands that are very crucial for the development and daily functioning. The gland responsible for releasing different hormones and plays an important role in growth development is known as the pituitary gland. It is also crucial to the development and growth of the body during the puberty stage of an individual.

The hypothalamus is another component of the brain that is responsible in controlling temperature in the body. The function of which is in keeping the body at normal temperature with appropriate response to each exposure in any temperature. The hypothalamus will send messages to the brain to make the body sweat when exposed to too much heat while it triggers the body to shiver when exposed to too much cold.

The complex structure of the brain is working closely together to sustain a normal function and living of every individual. The different parts of the brain can get affected with encephalomalacia that a single portion of the brain that gets affected can alter any of the functions. The alteration in the normal function of the body will greatly affect the quality of living if not completely debilitating or life-threatening.


Various signs and symptoms can be manifested with encephanomalacia. The degree of severity can range from mild to severe depending on how greatly the part of the brain was affected and what portion of the brain was hit. The signs and symptoms also vary from one person to another depending on some factors such as the age and overall health status of the individual. Encephalomalacia can be localized but may also spread to adjacent parts of the brain that can affect a multitude of body organs and its function.

The common symptoms of Encephalomalacia however, include the following:

  • Episode of somnolence or extreme drowsiness
  • Wobbliness and lack of movement coordination
  • Temporary or permanent blindness
  • Vertigo or severe head spinning
  • Severe headache
  • Head pressing
  • Terminal coma may occur later on

Different manifestations of brain tissue softening can occur depending on the location and extent of the condition. Memory loss and mood swing for example are among the signs and symptoms of encephalomalacia affecting the frontal lobe of the brain.

There are two main types of encephalomalacia classified according to the areas of the brain that is affected and these are:

Leukoencephalomalacia is an encephalomalacia that affects the white matter of the brain. The white matter is composed of glial cells and axons that are responsible for transmitting signal from one end of the cerebrum to another and also transmit signals in between the cerebrum and the lower brain centers.

Polioencaphalomalacia is encephalomalacia of the gray matter. It is a major component of the central nervous system and involves the part of the brain responsible for sensory perception, muscle control, memory, emotions and speech.

Encephalomalacia is also categorized according to the colors and stages of damage such as:

  • Red softening
  • Yellow softening
  • White softening


There are a number of causes that can lead to the softening of the brain tissue, although the most implicated is some serious head injury that subjects the brain to tissue softening. The injury to the brain can result to the inflammation and swelling of the brain that a variation in the size of the brain from swelling can cause encephalomalacia. Encephalomalacia in a localized area is mostly seen with hemorrhage that it is also being implicated in the cause of the condition. Degeneration and deterioration of the brain are also believed to result in extensive softening of the brain although this one is rather rare in occurrence.

Various diseases and disorders can also influence the softening of the brain tissue and such may include the following:

Cerebral infarction is also known as a stroke and is defined as an interruption in the blood flow in the as a consequence of an obstruction and disruption in the blood vessels that supplies the brain.

Cerebral ischemia is a sub-type of stroke and is described as an insufficiency in the supply of blood to the brain resulting in metabolic deficiency.

Traumatic brain injury is a consequence of any external mechanical force directed to the brain that results to brain dysfunction. This could be the result of any violent blow directed towards the brain, jolt and penetration of a foreign object in the skull such as a bullet from a gunshot.

Infection in any form either directly hitting the brain or may have resulted from the spread of causative agent can cause an injury to the brain in any part of it thus, the onset of brain tissue softening.


The incidence of brain tissue softening can be evaluated and determined through imaging test such as:

Magnetic resonance imaging is the most utilized imaging tests to determine the condition of encephalomalacia.

Computed tomography scan or CT Scan is also being used to identify the onset of brain tissue softening.


There is no direct treatment or cure for encephalomalacia. The treatment is rather directed towards the underlying condition that influenced the pliability and consistency of the brain tissue. No treatment has been identified to reverse the damage caused by encephalomalacia to the brain.

An extreme severity of encephalomalacia may be managed with surgical removal of the affected site although this mode of addressing encephalomalacia is not guaranteed to reverse the damage nor restore the functionality of the damaged part of the brain. There has also been no clear indication if the sensations can also be restored after changes in functional mobility of the brain.


Encephalomalacia is regarded as one of the most serious types of brain condition that can bring irreversible damage and affect the normal function of the body as a whole. No cure directed towards the condition of encephalomalacia has been identified and only the underlying conditions are directly applied to treatment and cure.

Encephalomalacia can affect anyone regardless of age and gender and it can even affect an infant and a developing embryo. The prognosis for infants is generally poor and often the infant cannot be saved from the condition. Survivor of encephalomalacia on the other hand may suffer from neurological deficit. Prompt treatment of encephalomalacia in adults has a better prognosis. This is especially true if early detection of the condition has been done.

Infants born with encephalomalacia have a very diminutive lifespan. Development of encephalomalacia at a later age has chances for a long life span if the condition is given a proper treatment. The life expectancy in encephalomalacia on the other may differ from one person to another depending on the extent and severity of the condition, age and overall health status of the affected individual.


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    • profile image


      18 months ago

      You get an F in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but thanks for the article and your efforts!

    • alapatiamar profile image


      2 years ago from India

      Encephalomalacia can be categorized into 2 types depending on the part of the central nervous system (CNS) is affected, and these are a. Polioencephalomalacia b. Leukoencephalomalacia. Get more information at


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