what is craniosynostosis?

The normal skull consists of several plates of bone, which are separated by fibrous joints called sutures.  As an infant grows and develops, the sutures eventually close and form 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.  The developing skull will likely expand in the direction of the open sutures, which results in an abnormal head shape and/or facial features.  In severe cases, excessive and damaging amounts of pressure may be placed on the growing brain.

The cause of craniosynostosis is unknown.   It is most often sporadic, happening by chance, but has been proven with some families to be inherited.   Although the statistics vary from one source to another, craniosynostosis occurs in roughly one out of every 2,000 live births and affects males twice as often as females.  There are different types or names of craniosynostosis, based on which of the sutures have prematurely closed.
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Craniosynostosis may be present at birth or may be detected later during a physical examination.  Further diagnostic tests may include an x-ray or CT scan of the head.  Early and accurate diagnosis of the condition is essential!

The primary treatment of craniosynostosis during infancy is surgery.   There are several goals that the surgery should accomplish.  First, is to relieve pressure in the head.  Second, to assure that the skull has the capacity to accommodate the growth of the infant's brain.  And lastly, to attempt to cosmetically improve the appearance of the infants head and/or face.  The ideal time to perform surgery is before one year of age because the infant's bones are still very soft and easy to work with. 

For further information about the diagnosis of craniosynostosis and surgery, please visit the information page on CHOP's website.

Please note, there are several surgical methods for treating the diagnosis of craniosynostosis.  Please be sure to do your homework and choose which surgery is right for you and your child.