Disease: Craniosynostosis


    Craniosynostosis (kray-nee-o-sin-os-TOE-sis) is a birth defect in which one or more of the fibrous joints between the bones of your baby's skull (cranial sutures) close prematurely (fuse), before your baby's brain is fully formed. Brain growth continues, giving the head a misshapen appearance.

    Craniosynostosis usually involves fusion of a single cranial suture, but can involve more than one of the sutures in your baby's skull (complex craniosynostosis). In rare cases, craniosynostosis is caused by certain genetic syndromes (syndromic craniosynostosis).

    Treating craniosynostosis involves surgery to correct the shape of the head and allow for normal brain growth. Early diagnosis and treatment allow your baby's brain adequate space to grow and develop.

    Although neurological damage can occur in severe cases, most children have normal cognitive development and achieve good cosmetic results after surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment are key.

    Craniosynostosis Care at Mayo Clinic

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Your baby's skull has seven bones. Joints called cranial sutures, made of strong, fibrous tissue, hold these bones together. In the front of your baby's skull, the sutures intersect in the large soft spot (fontanel) on the top of your baby's head. Normally, the sutures remain flexible, giving your baby's brain time to grow until the bones fuse at about age 2.

    The signs of craniosynostosis are usually noticeable at birth, but they'll become more apparent during the first few months of your baby's life. These can include:

    • A misshapen skull, with the shape depending on which of the sutures are affected
    • An abnormal feeling or disappearing fontanel on your baby's skull
    • Development of a raised, hard ridge along affected sutures
    • Slow or no growth of the head as your baby grows

    Types of craniosynostosis

    There are several types of craniosynostosis. Most involve the fusion of a single cranial suture. Complex craniosynostosis involves the fusion of multiple sutures. Most cases of complex craniosynostosis are linked to genetic syndromes and are called syndromic craniosynostosis.

    The term given to each type of craniosynostosis depends on what sutures are affected. Types of craniosynostosis include:

    • Sagittal. Premature fusion of the sagittal suture that runs from the front to the back at the top of the skull forces the head to grow long and narrow. Sagittal craniosynostosis is the most common type.
    • Coronal. Premature fusion of one of the coronal sutures (unicoronal) that run from each ear to the top of the skull may cause your baby's forehead to flatten on the affected side and bulge on the unaffected side. It also leads to turning of the nose and elevation of the eye socket on the affected side. When both of the coronal sutures fuse prematurely (bicoronal), it gives your baby's head a short and wide appearance, most commonly with the forehead tilted forward.
    • Metopic. The metopic suture runs from the top of the bridge of the nose up through the midline of the forehead to the anterior fontanel or soft spot and the sagittal suture. Premature fusion gives the forehead a triangular appearance and widens the back part of the head.
    • Lambdoid. This is a rare type of craniosynostosis that involves the lambdoid suture, which runs across the skull at the back of the head. It may cause one side of your baby's head to appear flat, one ear to be higher than the other ear and tilting of the top of the head to one side.

    Other reasons for a misshapen head

    A misshapen head doesn't always indicate craniosynostosis. For example, if the back of your baby's head appears flattened, it could be the result of your baby spending too much time on one side of his or her head. This can be treated with regular position changes, or if significant, with helmet therapy (cranial orthosis) to help reshape the head to a more normal appearance.

    When to see a doctor

    Your doctor will routinely monitor your child's head growth at well-child visits. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your baby's head growth or shape.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Often the cause of craniosynostosis in not known, but sometimes it's related to genetic disorders.

    • Nonsyndromic craniosynostosis is the most common type of craniosynostosis, and its cause is unknown, although it's thought to be a combination of genes and environmental factors.
    • Syndromic craniosynostosis is caused by certain genetic syndromes, such as Apert syndrome, Pfeiffer syndrome or Crouzon syndrome, which can affect your baby's skull development.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Craniosynostosis requires evaluation by specialists, such as a pediatric neurosurgeon or plastic surgeon. Diagnosis of craniosynostosis may include:

    • Physical exam. Your doctor will feel your baby's head for abnormalities such as suture ridges, and look for facial deformities.
    • Imaging studies. A computerized tomography (CT) scan of your baby's skull can show whether any sutures have fused. Fused sutures are identifiable by their absence, because they're invisible once fused, or by the ridging of the suture line. A laser scan and photographs also may be used to make precise measurements of the skull shape.
    • Genetic testing. If your doctor suspects an underlying genetic syndrome, genetic testing may help identify the syndrome.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    If untreated, craniosynostosis may cause, for example:

    • Permanent head and facial deformity
    • Poor self-esteem and social isolation

    The risk of intracranial pressure from simple craniosynostosis is small, as long as the suture and head shape are fixed surgically. But babies with complex craniosynostosis, particularly those with an underlying syndrome, may develop increased pressure inside the skull if their skulls don't expand enough to make room for their growing brains. If untreated, increased intracranial pressure can cause:

    • Developmental delays
    • Cognitive impairment
    • No energy or interest (lethargy)
    • Blindness
    • Eye movement disorders
    • Seizures
    • Death, in rare instances

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

    Coping and support

    When you learn that your baby has craniosynostosis, you may experience a range of emotions, including anger, fear, worry, sorrow and guilt. You may not know what to expect, and you may worry about your ability to care for your baby. The best antidote for fear and worry is information and support.

    Consider these steps to prepare yourself and to care for your baby:

    • Find a team of trusted professionals. You'll need to make important decisions about your baby's care. Medical centers with craniofacial specialty teams can offer you information about the disorder, coordinate your baby's care among specialists, help you evaluate options and provide treatment.
    • Seek out other families. Talking to people who are dealing with similar challenges can provide you with information and emotional support. Ask your doctor about support groups in your community. If a group isn't for you, maybe your doctor can put you in touch with a family who has dealt with craniosynostosis. Or you may be able to find group or individual support online.
    • Expect a bright future. Most children have normal cognitive development and achieve good cosmetic results after surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment are key.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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