Professional Reference articles are written by UK doctors and are based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. They are designed for health professionals to use, so you may find the language more technical than the condition leaflets.
Synonyms: Russell-Silver syndrome, Russell-Silver dwarfism, Silver's syndrome
Silver-Russell syndrome (SRS) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous condition characterised by severe intrauterine and postnatal growth restriction, craniofacial disproportion and normal intelligence, downward curvature of the corner of the mouth, syndactyly and webbed fingers.
This is very rare.
- Reported cases since the discovery of the syndrome number in the hundreds but it is likely to be underdiagnosed.
- Estimates of incidence vary from 1 in 75,000 births to 1 in 100,000.
The condition occurs sporadically and, in many cases, no genetic cause can be clearly identified. SRS is genetically heterogeneous.
In recent years, it has been shown that more than 38% of patients have hypomethylation in the imprinting control region 1 of 11p15 and around 10% of patients carry a maternal uniparental disomy of chromosome 7. In addition, there is a further class of mutations which are copy number variations affecting different chromosomes, mainly 11p15 and 7.
SRS is primarily a clinical diagnosis but molecular testing enables confirmation of the clinical diagnosis and defines the subtype. As many of the features of this condition are nonspecific, clinical diagnosis of SRS remains difficult.
In general the features of the syndrome are most pronounced in young children and become less obvious as the patient becomes older.
The face is characteristically small and triangular; however, the head circumference is usually normal for age. This, combined with short stature, gives the appearance of having a large head.
- Birth weight less than 2 standard deviation (SD) from mean.
- Poor postnatal growth - less than 2 SD from mean at diagnosis.
- Normal occipitofrontal circumference despite growth restriction.
- Asymmetrical patterns of growth.
- The average height for affected males is about 151 cm and about 140 cm for affected females.
- Normal head circumference but characteristic small, triangular face.
- Blue sclerae.
- High forehead tapering to micrognathic jaw.
- Prominent nasal bridge and down-turned corners of mouth.
- Feeding difficulties during infancy, including gastro-oesophageal reflux, oesophagitis, food aversion, poor appetite and faltering growth.
- Tendency to fasting hypoglycaemia during infancy, as a result of feeding difficulties.
- Poor head control in infancy, due to a relatively large head compared with the neck/trunk. Motor impairment due to poor muscle mass/function.
- About half have learning difficulties, particularly problems with arithmetic and language.
- Late closure of the anterior fontanelle.
- Limb asymmetry and hemihypertrophy.
- Clinodactyly (incurving) of the little finger.
- Camptodactyly (fixed flexion) of fingers.
- Syndactyly (fusion) of toes.
- Sprengel's neck deformity - unilateral shortening and webbing to trunk.
- X-ray abnormalities include:
- Delayed bone age.
- 'Ivory' epiphyses of distal phalanges.
- Small middle phalanx of the little finger - present in 4 out of 5 cases.
- Pseudo-epiphyses at the base of second metacarpal.
- Increased sweating affecting the head and upper trunk.
- Urogenital anomalies - hypospadias, posterior urethral valves.
- Cardiac abnormalities.
- Tendency to tumours such as Wilms' tumour, hepatocellular carcinoma, testicular seminoma and craniopharyngioma.
- Causes of intrauterine growth restriction and faltering growth.
- Fetal alcohol syndrome and Fanconi's syndrome also present similarly.
- Karyotyping of a child and both parents to look for known underlying genetic abnormalities.
- Radiographs of the hand may detect typical skeletal abnormalities.
- Growth can be improved by optimising nutrition:
- Enteral feeding may be needed.
- Short stature in SRS can be treated by use of pharmacological doses of recombinant growth hormone, resulting in good short-term catch-up.
- Early use of physiotherapy.
- Educational support.
The prognosis is generally good but morbidity is very variable and will depend on the severity of associated features.
There have been no long-term follow-up studies of sufficient numbers of those with the condition to define life expectancy, morbidity and mortality definitively.
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Further reading & references
- Russell Silver Syndrome (RSS), Intrauterine Growth Retardation (IUGR), Small for Gestational Age (SGA); Child Growth Foundation
- Varma SN, Varma BR; Clinical spectrum of Silver - Russell syndrome. Contemp Clin Dent. 2013 Jul 4(3):363-5. doi: 10.4103/0976-237X.118346.
- Silver HK, Kiyasu W, George J, et al; Syndrome of congenital hemihypertrophy, shortness of stature, and elevated urinary gonadotropins. Pediatrics. 1953 Oct 12(4):368-76.
- Russell A; A syndrome of intra-uterine dwarfism recognizable at birth with cranio-facial dysostosis, disproportionately short arms, and other anomalies (5 examples). Proc R Soc Med. 1954 Dec 47(12):1040-4.
- Ishida M; New developments in Silver-Russell syndrome and implications for clinical practice. Epigenomics. 2016 Apr 8(4):563-80. doi: 10.2217/epi-2015-0010. Epub 2016 Apr 12.
- Eggermann T, Spengler S, Gogiel M, et al; Epigenetic and genetic diagnosis of Silver-Russell syndrome. Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2012 Jun 12(5):459-71. doi: 10.1586/erm.12.43.
- Marczak-Halupka A, Kalina MA, Tanska A, et al; Silver-Russell Syndrome - Part I: Clinical Characteristics and Genetic Background. Pediatr Endocrinol Diabetes Metab. 2015 20(3):101-6. doi: 10.18544/PEDM-20.03.0009.
- Wakeling EL, Brioude F, Lokulo-Sodipe O, et al; Diagnosis and management of Silver-Russell syndrome: first international consensus statement. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2017 Feb 13(2):105-124. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2016.138. Epub 2016 Sep 2.
- Wakeling EL; Silver-Russell syndrome. Arch Dis Child. 2011 Dec 96(12):1156-61. doi: 10.1136/adc.2010.190165. Epub 2011 Feb 24.
- Binder G, Begemann M, Eggermann T, et al; Silver-Russell syndrome. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Feb 25(1):153-60. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2010.06.005.
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