What kinds of cloacal deformities are there?
There are many variations of cloacal deformities, but most involve the opening of the urethra (the tube through which urine leaves the body), the genital tract and the rectum. Normally, each of these channels has a separate opening at the skin’s surface, but in this condition, the three tracts merge into one common channel and one opening. The ovaries are typically normal.
Specific defects may include:
- variation in the degree of development of the bladder, reproductive organs, abdominal wall and rectum
- vaginal duplication or atresia (absence or abnormal closure of the vagina)
- lack of or failure in the development of other female reproductive structures such as the uterus and fallopian tubes
- imperforate anus, a condition where the anus has not been formed or is perforated, and the colon connects to the bladder
Cloacal deformities are often associated with the following conditions:
- anomalies of the upper urinary system, sometimes including anomalies in one or both kidneys
- anomalies of the bones in the pelvis or lower spine
- anomalies of the spinal cord and, sometimes, the affected nerves
The most complicated cloacal deformity is cloacal exstrophy, a severe birth defect in which a child is born with many intra-abdominal structures, such as the large intestine and bladder, exposed. An omphalocele (a birth defect in which abdominal organs stick out of the navel) will often be present as well. Please see more detailed information in our page on Cloacal Exstrophy.
To view normal anatomy of the urinary tract and digestive tract, see Urinary Tract anatomy.
What causes cloacal deformities?
The cause of cloacal deformities is unknown. It does not appear that any medications or activities of the parents or expectant mother have any impact on the development of cloacal deformities. Based on our current knowledge, it is very unlikely that this condition can be prevented.