What causes craniosynostosis?
Craniosynostosis occurs in one out of 2,000 live births and affects males slightly more often than females. It most often occurs by chance, but sometimes it is inherited genetically.
What are the symptoms of craniosynostosis?
In infants with this condition, changes in the shape of the head and face may be noticeable and are generally the first and only symptom. The appearance of the child’s face may not be the same when compared to the other side. Occasionally, synostosis can increase the pressure within the skull. This is especially true when multiple sutures are fused too early. Symptoms of too much pressure in the skull include:
• Full or bulging fontanelle (soft spot located on the top of the head)
• Sleepiness (or less alert than usual)
• Scalp veins may be very noticeable
• Increased irritability
• High-pitched cry
• Poor feeding
• Projectile vomiting
• Increasing head circumference
• Bulging eyes and the child’s inability to look upward with the head facing forward
• Developmental delays
The symptoms of craniosynostosis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child’s doctor for a diagnosis.
How is craniosynostosis treated?
Surgery is typically the recommended treatment. The goal of treatment is to reduce the pressure in the head and correct the deformities of the face and skull bones.
The best time to perform surgery is typically between 6 months and 1 year of age since the bones are still very soft and are easy to work with surgically. Because blood loss can be an issue, surgery is often delayed in the very young child to allow some growth and development as well as a greater blood volume.
Following the operation, it is common for children to have a very swollen face and eyelids. The eyes may even swell shut. Most babies go to the intensive care unit (ICU) after the operation for close monitoring.
Problems after surgery may occur suddenly or over a period of time. The child may experience any or all of the following complications:
• Fever (greater than 101 degrees F) – this is very common
• Redness and swelling along the incision areas
• Decreased alertness
These complications require prompt evaluation by your child’s surgeon.
What is the long-term outlook for a child with craniosynostosis?
The key to treating craniosynostosis is early detection and treatment. Some forms of craniosynostosis can affect the brain and its development. The degree of the problems depends on the severity of the craniosynostosis, the number of sutures that are fused, and the presence of brain or other organ system problems that could affect the child.
A child with craniosynostosis requires frequent medical evaluations to ensure that the skull, facial bones, and brain are developing normally. The medical team works with the child’s family to provide education and guidance to improve the health and well being of the child.