Mild cases of craniosynostosis — those that involve only one suture and no underlying syndrome — may require no treatment. Skull abnormalities may become less obvious as your baby grows and develops hair. Or your doctor might recommend a specially molded helmet to help reshape your baby's head and allow room for your baby's brain growth.
For most babies, however, surgery is the primary treatment for craniosynostosis. The type and timing of surgery depend on the type of craniosynostosis and whether there's an underlying syndrome that needs treatment.
The purpose of surgery is to relieve pressure on the brain, create room for the brain to grow normally and improve your child's appearance. A team that includes a specialist in surgery of the head and face (craniofacial surgeon) and a specialist in brain surgery (neurosurgeon) often performs the procedure.
Traditional surgery. The surgeon makes an incision in your baby's scalp and cranial bones, then reshapes the affected portion of the skull. Sometimes plates and screws, often made of material that is absorbed over time, are used to hold the bones in place. Surgery, which is performed during general anesthesia, usually takes hours.
After surgery, your baby remains in the hospital for at least three days. Some children may require a second surgery later because the craniosynostosis recurs. Also, children with facial deformities often require future surgeries to reshape their faces.
- Endoscopic surgery. This less invasive form of surgery isn't an option for everyone. But in certain cases, the surgeon may use a lighted tube (endoscope) inserted through one or two small scalp incisions over the affected suture. The surgeon then opens the suture to enable your baby's brain to grow normally. Endoscopic surgery usually takes about an hour, causes less swelling and blood loss, and shortens the hospital stay, often to one day after surgery.
If your baby has an underlying syndrome, your doctor may recommend regular follow-up visits after surgery to monitor head growth and check for increased intracranial pressure. Head growth will be routinely monitored at well-child visits.
Sept. 30, 2013
- Burokas L. Craniosynostosis: Caring for infants and their families. Critical Care Nurse. 2013;33:39.
- Craniosynostosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/craniosynostosis/craniosynostosis.htm. Accessed Aug. 1, 2013.
- Buchanan EP, et al. Overview of craniosynostosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 1, 2013.
- Craniosynostosis and craniofacial disorders. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Craniosynostosis%20and%20Craniofacial%20Disorders.aspx. Accessed Aug. 1, 2013.
- Cook AJ. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 21, 2013.