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Revista chilena de pediatría

versión impresa ISSN 0370-4106

Rev. chil. pediatr. vol.91 no.1 Santiago feb. 2020  Epub 03-Dic-2019 


Genital malformation: Trigger of the diagnosis of severe variants of Klinefelter syndrome

José Luis Fadil Iturralde1 

Jorge Marani1 

Martha Lahoz García2 

Silvia Carbognani3 

Verónica Luccerini3 

Horacio Juan Damiani1 

Juan Carlos Contardi1 

1 Department of Pediatric Urology, Sanatorio de Niños de Rosario. Grupo Oroño, Argentina.

2 Department of Pediatrics, Sanatorio de Niños de Rosario. Grupo Oroño. Argentina.

3 Department of Genetics, Sanatorio de Niños de Rosario. Grupo Oroño, Argentina.



Among the disorders of sexual development, Klinefelter syndrome and its variants are classified as an alteration in the number of sex chromosomes. These patients show signs of hypergonadotropic hypogonadism at puberty, however cases of severe variants also present neurocognitive and language problems from an early age.


To describe two patients with genital malformation with genetic diagnosis of severe variants of Klinefelter syndrome, and to review clinical and therapeutic aspects.

Clinical Cases:

Case 1: Diagnosis of atypical genitalia at birth: Small and curved phallus with the urethral meatus at scrotal level, and bifid scrotum. No other somatic abnormality was observed, except for subtle clinodactyly of the fifth finger. Karyotype: 49, XXXXY. At one year of life, genitalia were reconstructed. The patient presented a global developmental delay, mainly in language, which was managed with early stimulation and speech and language therapy since he was two months old. Finally, he was able to attend kindergarten. Case 2: At one month of life, a small and severe curved phallus (more than 70°) was observed, and testicles were in the scrotum. Karyotype: 48, XXYY. At one year of life, the penile malformation was corrected. The patient presented global developmental delay, mainly in expressive language which was managed with early stimulation since the age of four months, achieving kindergarten attendance.


Genital malformations led to the diagno sis of severe variants of Klinefelter syndrome, and were corrected around the year of life. The early identification of these variants allowed the intervention of the neurostimulation team, favoring the neurocognitive development and social integration of these children.

Keywords: Klinefelter syndrome; genital malformation; 48,XXYY; 49,XXXXY; hypogonadism


In the case of a patient with severe genital altera tions, a genetic evaluation is essential since sometimes, syndromes with associated pathologies of variable se verity can be detected1,2. If this scenario is confirmed, the patient goes from being just a carrier of a genital malformation to being a syndromic patient, with mul tiple effects for her or his health which needs special ized multidisciplinary management. Omission or delay in diagnosis could have relevant prognostic conse quences for the future of the child2,3.

A consensus conference was held in 2005, which led to the development of new terminology that has been widely adopted. It uses the term ‘disorders of sexual de velopment’ (DSD) to describe the wide range of condi tions involved in genital and sexual development and classifies them based on the chromosomal constitution of the patients4,5.

Klinefelter syndrome and its variants are a disorder of sexual development caused by an alteration in the number of sex chromosomes. It is considered the most common defect in humans and is characterized by the presence of at least one additional X chromosome to the normal male XY karyotype. The classical form (47, XXY) is the most frequent, with a 1 in 650 incidence in males2. In contrast, severe variants are extremely rare: patients 48,XXXY present a 1:18,000-1:40,000 incidence; patients 48,XXYY a 1:50,000 incidence; and patients 49,XXXXY a 1:100,000 incidence6.

Children carriers of these rare Klinefelter syndrome variants, in addition to showing signs of hypergonado tropic hypogonadism at puberty, have neurocognitive and language disorders, which appear as early as 18 months of age3,6. Early diagnosis in these children is es sential to initiate early neurostimulation therapy and improve their long-term prognosis.

In this context, the reason for this review is the exceptional presence of severe genital malformations leading to early diagnosis of Klinefelter syndrome6,7.

The objective of this paper is to describe two car rier patients of genital malformation with a genetic di agnosis of severe Klinefelter syndrome variants and to review clinical and therapeutic aspects.

Clinical Cases

Case 1

Second child of non-blood related parents, with no significant morbid history, with prenatal ultrasound diagnosis of single pregnancy, female and without ap parent pathology. 39-week gestational age eutocic de livery. At birth, atypical genitals were observed, thus she was referred to the Urology Service.

Physical examination revealed the presence of a small, curved penis with urethral meatus at scrotal lev el, penoscrotal transposition, and bifid scrotum. Both testicles of usual size for age in the scrotal sac (Figure 1). External masculinization score 3 according to the scoring system adapted by Ahmed et al.8. The patient also present very subtle clinodactyly of the 5th fin ger in the right hand, and there were no other altera tions on physical examination. Abdominal ultrasound showed no signs of Müllerian ducts. When evaluated by the Genetics Service, a male karyotype was report ed, with 49.XXXXY sexual polysomy. Significant neu rological and cardiovascular disorders were ruled out. At 10 months, the patient presented changes in her face characterized by up-slanting palpebral fissures, ocular hypertelorism, and flat nasal bridge. From the year of life, genitalia were reconstructed in two sur geries, achieving satisfactory functional and esthetic results.

Figure 1 Appearance of ex ternal genitalia of the patient with 49, XXXXY syndrome. 

Regarding her development, at the age of two months, she started treatment with early kinesics and speech and hearing stimulation. The 3-year follow-up evaluation showed an overall developmental delay ac cording to the Child Development Observation Tool (IODI, Ministry of Health of the Argentine Republic)9, mainly in language, with good understanding and very little verbal fluency. However, the support of the early stimulation team allowed her to be integrated into a kindergarten, resulting in the social inclusion of the patient.

Case 2

Healthy, non-blood related parents who due to infertility underwent assisted fertilization treatment (ICSI) through egg donation. Prenatal ultrasounds re ported single male fetus with no abnormalities. Eutocic delivery at week 38, with perinatal evolution showing no special features. In his first month of age, the pe diatrician noticed an ‘atypical penis’ and referred the patient to a pediatric urologist, who found a small, severely curved penis (more than 70°) with apparent meatus at the glans level and very little ventral skin. Normal scrotum with both testicles in scrotal sac, with the right one of smaller size. (Figure 2). External masculinization score 78. No other significant dysmorphia was observed. The Genetics Service reported a male karyotype with 48,XXYY sexual polysomy. Abdominal ultrasound showed no special features or evidence of Müllerian ducts. At one year of age, genitalia were sur gically corrected, achieving a straight penis with nor mal meatus appearance and location in glans.

Figure 2 Appearance of exter nal genitalia of the patient with 48, XXYY syndrome. 

Regarding development, at four months of age, he started treatment with early kinesics and speech and hearing stimulation. At the age of two, he had an over all developmental delay according to the IODI, with good comprehension and difficulty in verbal expressive language. He started his integration in a kindergarten assisted by a therapeutic companion.


The 48,XXYY, 48,XXXY, and 49,XXXXY syndromes are abnormalities of sex chromosome aneuploidy that lead to testicular dysgenesis and appear as alterations in the genital and reproductive sphere (depending on the hypogonadism degree). Due to this observation, they are considered variants of Klinefelter syndrome. However, these patients also show delayed neurological and cognitive development, speech disorders, behav ioral and socialization problems, and various skeletal malformations, casting doubts on the consideration of these disorders as variants of classic Klinefelter syn drome6,10,11.

In general, patients with 48,XXYY at birth do not show distinctive features. In isolation, as in case 2, they present genital alterations that may vary from cryptor chidism or communicating hydrocele to severe malfor mations such as hypospadias, and small or curved pe nises. Other physical signs may include clinodactyly of the 5 th finger (in 70% of cases), flat foot, dental prob lems, hypertelorism with up-slanting palpebral fissures and epicanthus, and rarely have heart disease6,12. Ra dioulnar synostosis and food or respiratory allergy are also described as part of the syndrome11.

If there are no genital or skeletal alterations, the first symptoms appear after 18 months of age, with mild hypotonia in 75% of cases. They may also show language developmental delay (especially expressive) and varying degrees of psychomotor and cognitive de lay. All patients present difficulty in learning at school age, with an IQ around 70-80. Regarding social devel opment, they are generally docile and submissive, but cases of extreme aggression have been described6,13.

49,XXXXY syndrome was first described in 1960 by Fraccaro et al.14. It is known as the most severe variant of Klinefelter syndrome due to the presence of hyper gonadotropic hypogonadism associated with a combi nation of skeletal, neurological, cognitive, genital, and heart malformations.

Published data on newborn patients with 49,XXXXY syndrome are very limited. The presence of several non-specific congenital anomalies such as low birth weight, microcephaly, bifid uvula, cleft palate, hypotonia, clinodactyly of the fifth finger, patent ductus arteriosus, or genitalia malformations has led to the diagnosis of this syndrome at an early age15. Facial features are almost a pathognomonic sign (ocular hy pertelorism, up-slanting palpebral fissures, and flat na sal bridge), however, it is not possible to identify it until 9-12 months of age3,16. Phenotypes change as the child grows into adulthood, therefore, certain clinical char acteristics of postpubescent teenagers are not clear in younger children7. They are patients of low height (un like the other variants) and may present other skeletal alterations such as radioulnar synostosis, genu valgum, pes cavus, scoliosis, and hypotonia with joint laxity.

The IQ usually ranges from 20 to 60, with great difficulty in learning. Cognitive and language develop mental delay severely affects the socialization of these children. They tend to be shy, friendly, with occasional irritability and temper tantrums, low tolerance for frustration, and difficulty adapting to changing rou tines.

The variability in the clinical features of these syn dromes is thought to derive from the manifestation of three factors: the genetic defect severity (X numbers), androgen deficiency, and androgen receptor sensitivity. The more altered these factors are, the more severe the phenotypic expression will be1,2.


In these clinical cases, the presence of a severe geni tal malformation led to the suspicion of an underlying genetic disorder, which was confirmed through clinical and genomic evaluation.

Genital malformations were the trigger for the diagnosis of severe Klinefelter syndrome variants, and they were resolved around one year of age by the Urology Service. The early identification of these syn dromes enabled the prompt intervention of the early stimulation team (speech and hearing therapists, ki nesiologists, educational psychologists, neurologists, physiatrists, etc.), promoting the neurocognitive and speech and hearing development of these patients, with a positive impact on their social integration.

Ethical Responsibilities

Human Beings and animals protection: Disclosure the authors state that the procedures were followed ac cording to the Declaration of Helsinki and the World Medical Association regarding human experimenta tion developed for the medical community.

Data confidentiality: The authors state that they have followed the protocols of their Center and Local regu lations on the publication of patient data.

Rights to privacy and informed consent: The authors have obtained the informed consent of the parents (tu tors) of the patients and/or subjects referred to in the article. This document is in the possession of the cor respondence author.

Conflicts of Interest: Authors declare no conflict of interest regarding the present study.

Financial Disclosure: Authors state that no economic support has been as sociated with the present study.


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Received: May 29, 2019; Accepted: September 08, 2019

Correspondence: Fadil Iturralde, José Luis. E-mail:

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