You know your baby better than anyone else, so when you notice something doesn’t look quite right, it’s natural to be concerned. If you’ve noticed that your baby’s head is misshapen, it could be a sign of craniosynostosis, a medical condition that causes the sutures (or seams) in an infant's skull to close before the head and brain are finished growing.
At Brooks Plastic Surgery in Hollywood, Florida, our plastic surgeon Dr. Christopher Brooks offers help for parents of infants with craniosynostosis. Dr. Brooks completed advanced fellowship training at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, so he has the expertise and skill to provide exceptional treatment for your child’s craniofacial needs.
Our care team put together this guide to help you understand your options for treatment when your child has craniosynostosis.
In a baby’s skull, the cranial bones have a flexible material called sutures that allow the skull to grow as the brain grows. Once the baby reaches two years of age, the skull bones come together and the sutures harden and fuse.
With craniosynostosis, the early closing of the sutures causes the baby’s skull to become misshapen as the brain grows and the unfused areas of the skull continue to grow. This premature fusion of the skull plates creates an abnormal head shape and can increase pressure inside the skull, leading to delays in brain development if left untreated.
Type of craniosynostosis
Babies can develop different types of craniosynostosis depending on which skull sutures fuse too early. The most common type of craniosynostosis is sagittal synostosis, which occurs when the sagittal suture (the seam that runs along the top of the head) closes too early.
Other types of craniosynostosis include:
- Coronal synostosis: A common form of craniosynostosis involving the early closing of one or both of the seams that run from the ear to the sagittal suture at the top of the head
- Metopic synostosis: A rare form of craniosynostosis involving the premature closing of the suture that runs from the nose to the sagittal suture at the top of the head
- Lambdoid synostosis: Another rare form of craniosynostosis involving the premature fusion of the seam along the backside of the head
Each case of craniosynostosis differs and can range from very mild to severe. If you notice your baby’s head is misshapen, it’s important to speak with your doctor as soon as possible since early treatment (before 12 months old) is key for the best prognosis.
Understanding your options for craniosynostosis
Customized treatment for craniosynostosis depends on the type of craniosynostosis your child has as well as the severity of their condition, though surgery is the usual recommendation. Here’s a look at the most common options when your child has craniosynostosis:
For babies with very mild cases of craniosynostosis, surgery may not be needed. In some cases, your provider may recommend a special helmet molded in a way that helps correct the shape of your baby’s head. This treatment is only recommended in cases where the cranial sutures are still open.
For very young babies (normally up to 6 months), Dr. Brooks may perform minimally invasive, endoscopic surgery. During the procedure, he makes two small incisions to endoscopically remove a small piece of bone. The space created by the removed bone allows your baby’s brain to grow normally with minimal scarring and a faster recovery compared to other surgeries.
This procedure typically takes about an hour. You can expect an overnight hospital stay for monitoring before being sent home. Your baby will normally wear a molding helmet as they recover and have regular appointments for helmet refitting.
For older babies (over 6 months) or babies with certain types of craniosynostosis, Dr. Brooks performs open surgery to correct your child’s head shape. During this procedure, called cranial vault remodeling, Dr. Brooks and our team open the sutures and remodel the skull, allowing the brain and skull to grow normally.
If your child has open cranial vault remodeling, you can expect a longer surgery (typically around six hours) and several days in the hospital as your child recovers. Babies undergoing this open surgery may need a blood transfusion and often have more facial swelling.
Your baby won’t require a molding helmet after the surgery, however, and will only require follow-up appointments at the one-, six-, and twelve-month marks after surgery as long as the healing progresses as expected.
Learn more about your options for craniosynostosis by contacting Dr. Brooks and the team at Brooks Plastic Surgery at 954-256-5838. You can also request an appointment online.