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Craniosynostosis

Definition

Craniosynostosis is a birth defect that causes one or more of the sutures on a baby's head to close earlier than usual.

The skull of an infant or young child is made up of bony plates that allow for growth of the skull. The borders at which these plates intersect are called sutures or suture lines. The sutures between these bony plates normally close by the time the child is 2 or 3 years old.

Early closing of a suture causes the baby to have an abnormally shaped head.

Alternative Names

Premature closure of sutures

Causes

The cause of craniosynostosis is unknown. Genes may play a role. However, there is usually no family history of the condition.

One type that is passed down through families (inherited) can occur with other health problems, such as seizures, decreased intelligence, and blindness. Genetic disorders commonly linked to craniosynostosis include Crouzon, Apert, Carpenter, Chotzen, and Pfeiffer syndromes.

However, most children with craniosynostosis are otherwise healthy and have normal intelligence.

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the type of craniosynostosis. They may include:

Types of craniosynostosis:

Exams and Tests

The doctor will feel the infant's head and perform a physical exam. 

The following tests may be done:

Well-child visits are an important part of your child's health care. They allow your doctor or nurse to regularly check the growth of your infant's head over time. This will help identify any problems early.

Treatment

Surgery is done while the baby is still an infant. The goals of surgery are:

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well  your child does depends on:

Children with this condition who have surgery usually do well, especially when the condition is not associated with a genetic syndrome.

Possible Complications

Craniosynostosis results in head deformity that can be severe and permanent if it is not corrected. Increased intracranial pressure, seizures, and developmental delay can occur.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your child's health care provider if:

References

Kinsman SL, Johnston MV. Craniosynostosis. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 585.12.


Review Date: 10/29/2013
Reviewed By: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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