At Banner Children’s, we understand as a parent, it can be overwhelming to hear a diagnosis for craniosynostosis. Our team of compassionate pediatric experts is here to build a custom treatment plan for your child and support you and your family.
Craniosynostosis is a birth defect that affects the shape of the skull. This condition occurs when the sutures separating the skull bones close before the brain has finished developing and growing. While it’s believed environmental factors or genetics may play a part in the development of craniosynostosis, the exact cause is unknown. An abnormal head shape can occur from laying your baby in one position for too long so it’s important to talk to your pediatrician to receive an accurate diagnosis. In most cases, these conditions can fix themselves through natural brain growth and frequent newborn repositioning.
There are several different types of craniosynostosis, which are defined by the location and sutures affected. At Banner Children’s, our pediatric neurosurgeons take the time and effort to understand your child’s unique cranial condition to develop the best treatment approach.
Sagittal synostosis is the most common type of craniosynostosis. In this condition, the sagittal suture, which is the opening that runs across the top of the skull from front to back, closes prematurely. This type of synostosis results in a long and narrow head shape with fullness in the forehead.
Coronal synostosis occurs when one or both coronal sutures, which are openings that run across the top of the skull emanating from each ear, fuse together prematurely. This causes the shape of the head to be wide. There are two types of coronal synostosis: unicoronal and bicoronal. Unicoronal synostosis occurs when one of the coronal sutures closes prematurely. Bicoronal synostosis occurs when both coronal sutures close prematurely.
This rare type of synostosis accounts for only 1-3% of craniosynostosis cases. Lambdoid synostosis is caused by the premature closing of the lambdoid suture, which is an opening that runs across the back of the skull from ear to ear. Lambdoid synostosis can make the shape of your baby’s head flat on one side. Lambdoid synostosis can be easily confused with positional plagiocephaly, which is caused by your baby sleeping preferentially to one side. Positional plagiocephaly does not require surgery.
Metopic synostosis (also referred to as trigonocephaly or metopic suture craniosynostosis) is a more common synostosis condition accounting for 20-25% of cranial cases. The metopic suture runs from the soft spot to the root of the nose, and if fused together prematurely can cause the forehead to form a triangular shape possibly impacting brain development.
It’s important to talk to your pediatrician if you start to see a misshapen portion of your child’s head. This does not always mean craniosynostosis as it is not unusual for a baby’s head to look a little misshapen. Sometimes this can simply mean your baby needs more frequent position changes and extra tummy time.
After your baby is born, as well as during early well-visits, your pediatrician will conduct a physical exam to look for any sign of craniosynostosis. During this exam, they will look for:
If anything abnormal is found, your pediatrician may request an imaging test, like a CT scan, to get a better understanding of the shape of your baby’s skull.
Surgery may or may not be required depending on the severity of craniosynostosis to help relieve pressure in the skull and allow for optimal brain growth. Another option to treat craniosynostosis includes helmet therapy (cranial orthosis), which can help gently correct the shape of the skull.
There are two surgical options for craniosynostosis: open surgery and endoscopic surgery. These surgeries are performed by a pediatric neurosurgeon who works closely with your pediatric plastics and craniofacial specialist.
Endoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that can be performed on babies 6 months and younger to open the closure. During this surgery, the pediatric neurosurgeon will create a small incision and remove the suture that is affected. Endoscopic surgery allows for a quicker recovery and a smaller incision.
Babies 6 months or older are more likely to require open surgery to reshape their skull. During this surgery, the pediatric neurosurgeon will cut open the affected suture and use plates and screws to correct the shape. This type of surgery involves a 2 to 4 day recovery in the hospital.
Helmet therapy, typically used after endoscopic surgery, is used to help reshape the skull over time. Your baby’s head is fitted with a special helmet to be worn for 23 hours a day for an average of 3 months. This therapy is not uncomfortable or painful for your baby as the helmet is made to fit your child.
Count on the experts at Banner Children’s to answer any questions and provide support to you and your child, always.