What is Craniosynostosis?
Craniosynostosis is a birth defect that occurs when one or more of the sutures found in the skull of an infant harden prematurely. Cranial sutures are fibrous joints that hold an infant’s skull bones together. Normally, these sutures remain flexible for the first few years of life, allowing for the brain of a child to grow.
Craniosynostosis Symptoms and Signs
The signs of infant craniosynostosis may not be apparent at birth. As the baby grows the symptoms of the defect become apparent. Signs and symptoms of craniosynostosis include:
- A misshapen skull
- Abnormal feeling “soft spot, ” or fontanelle, on your baby’s skull
- Early disappearance of the fontanelle
- Slow or no growth of your child’s head as he or she grows
- A raised, hard ridge along affected sutures
- Intracranial pressure (increased pressure within the skull)
Types of Craniosynostosis
Craniosynostosis is categorized into primary or secondary craniosynostosis. Primary craniosynostosis is characterized by one or more of a baby’s cranial sutures hardening, hindering the brain’s ability to grow normally. If your baby has secondary craniosynostosis, his or her brain stops growing.
The following are types of craniosynostosis:
- Sagittal synostosis (scaphocephaly) occurs when the sutures at the top of the head (sagital sutures) prematurely close. This forces an infant’s head to grow long and narrow, rather than wide.
- Coronal synostosis (anterior plagiocephaly) is the premature fusion of one of the sutures that run from each ear to the suture on top of the head, called the coronal sutures. Coronal synostosis may force your baby’s forehead to flatten on the affected side and can lead to a raised eye socket, deviated nose and slanted skull. This type of craniosynostosis may lead to vision loss on the affected side (amblyopia) if it is not treated.
- Bicoronal synostosis (brachycephaly) occurs when both of the coronal sutures fuse early. This may cause your baby to have a flat, elevated forehead and brow.
Causes of Craniosynostosis
Recent studies have linked the cranial defect with the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine linked the maternal use of antidepressants during pregnancy with a higher incidence of craniosynostosis in newborns.
Very mild cases of craniosynostosis may not require treatment. Most cases, however, require surgery during infancy. There are different types of surgery designed to treat the different types of craniosynostosis. The purpose of surgery is to reduce pressure on the brain, creating room within the skull for the brain to grow. Other benefits to surgery are the improved appearance of the skull. Craniosynostosis surgery normally takes about seven hours after which a child will remain hospitalized. Some patients may need a second surgery later in life if the synostosis recurs.
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