The most common trisomy is Trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome, where a baby has three of the twenty-first chromosome. Trisomy 18 is the second most common trisomy and occurs when a baby has three of the eighteenth chromosome. This results in 47 chromosomes instead of the normal 46 in the affected cells. It is this extra genetic material that causes the problems associated with Trisomy 18. The third most common is Trisomy 13, also known as Patau syndrome.
While there are different types of Trisomy 18, this does not mean one is better for a child than another. With each type, there is a range of possibilities. Some children are medically fragile while others thrive; some children walk while others are confined to wheelchairs. It is hard to say how the extra chromosome will impact an individual child from the genetic diagnosis alone.
Types of Trisomy 18:
- Full Trisomy 18: The most common type of Trisomy 18 (occurring in about 95% of all cases) is full Trisomy. With full Trisomy, the extra chromosome occurs in every cell in the baby’s body. This type of trisomy is not hereditary. It is not due to anything the parents did or did not do—either before or during pregnancy.
- Partial Trisomy 18: Partial trisomies are very rare. They occur when only part of an extra chromosome is present. Some partial Trisomy 18 syndromes may be caused by hereditary factors. Very rarely, a piece of chromosome 18 becomes attached to another chromosome before or after conception. Affected people have two copies of chromosome 18, plus a “partial” piece of extra material from chromosome 18.
- Mosaic Trisomy 18: Mosaic trisomy is also very rare. It occurs when the extra chromosome is present in some (but not all) of the cells of the body. Like full Trisomy 18, mosaic Trisomy is not inherited and is a random occurrence that takes place during cell division.