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The normal skull of a newborn baby has several plates of bone that are separated by fibrous joints called sutures. The sutures are found between the various plates of bone that make up an infant’s head. As the infant grows and develops, the sutures close and the bones fuse together, forming a solid piece of bone, called the skull.

Craniosynostosis is a condition in which the sutures close too early, causing problems with normal skull growth. Premature closure of the sutures may also cause the pressure inside of the head to increase, which can affect brain development.

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
  • Seizures
  • 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.

For babies up to 6 months of age, CHOC is the only hospital in the region to offer a minimally invasive, endoscopic procedure. Two small incisions are made and a small strip of bone is removed, to allow the head to grow normally. Babies typically go home from the hospital the next day and will wear a temporary helmet.

For older babies with craniosynostosis, CHOC neurosurgeons are the regional leaders in performing an open procedure to correct your baby’s head shape, with immediate results. 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
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Redness and swelling along the incision areas
  • Decreased alertness
  • Fatigue

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.

Contact Us

We treat all conditions of the head, including plagiocephaly, craniosynostosis and torticollis. We provide laser analysis of the head shape and a full range of surgical and non-surgical treatments such as cranial remodeling and custom helmeting. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation of your baby’s head.

CHOC Children’s Specialists Neurosurgery
1010 W. La Veta Ave., Suite 710
Orange, CA 92868
Appointments: 714-509-7070
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Long Live Childhood

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