by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Dandy-Walker Malformation; Dandy Walker Syndrome; Familial Dandy Walker; Dandy Walker Malformation)


Dandy-Walker syndrome is a rare brain deformity that happens before birth. It affects an area in the back of the brain that controls movement, thinking, and behavior. It also causes a buildup of fluid in ventricles (chambers) around it.

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The exact cause is not known. Genes may play a role.

Risk Factors

This problem may be more common in people who have a parent with it.


Problems may be:

  • Increased head size
  • Muscles that are very floppy or stiff
  • Delayed development doing things like sitting up and walking
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Jerky eye movements
  • Problems with coordination
  • Bulging of the back of the skull
  • Breathing problems
  • Seizures
  • Problems controlling facial movements
  • Learning problems

Children with this syndrome may also have other birth deformities of the brain, heart, face, or limbs.


The doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of the brain. This can be done with:


There is no cure. The goal is to manage symptoms. This can be done with physical therapy and education services.

The buildup of fluid in the ventricles may need to be treated. Extra fluid can cause pressure and swelling in the brain. Fluid may be drained by:

  • Shunt—A tube is placed from the brain to the abdomen to allow the extra fluid to drain out of the brain.
  • Ventriculostomy—A connection is made from one ventricle to other areas that contain fluid. It allows extra fluid to drain out of the affected ventricle.


There is no known way to prevent this syndrome.


Genetics Home Reference 

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 


Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation 

Health Canada 


Dandy-Walker malformation. Genetics Home Reference—National Institutes of Health website. Available at: Updated October 2015. Accessed April 14, 2020.

Dandy-Walker malformation. National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Available at: Published 2008. Accessed April 14, 2020.

Dandy Walker syndrome.—Society for Neuroscience website. Available at: Accessed April 14, 2020.

Dandy-Walker syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Updated March 27, 2019. Accessed April 14, 2020.

Hydrocephalus in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated December 4, 2018. Accessed April 14, 2020.

Kahle KT, Kulkarni AV, et al. Hydrocephalus in children. Lancet. 2016 Feb 20;387(10020):788-799.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 02/2020
  • Update Date: 04/14/2020