Diagnosis

To determine whether your child has microcephaly, your doctor likely will take a thorough prenatal, birth and family history and do a physical exam. He or she will measure the circumference of your child's head, compare it with a growth chart, and remeasure and plot the growth at future visits. Parents' head sizes also may be measured to determine whether small heads run in the family.

In some cases, particularly if your child's development is delayed, your doctor may request tests such as a head CT scan or MRI and blood tests to help determine the underlying cause of the delay.

Treatment

Except for surgery for craniosynostosis, there's generally no treatment that will enlarge your child's head or reverse complications of microcephaly. Treatment focuses on ways to manage your child's condition. Early childhood intervention programs that include speech, physical and occupational therapy may help your child strengthen abilities.

Your doctor might recommend medication for certain complications of microcephaly, such as seizures or hyperactivity.

Coping and support

When you learn your child has microcephaly, your emotions might include anger, fear, worry, sorrow and guilt. You may not know what to expect, and you may worry about your child's future. The best antidote for fear and worry is information and support.

Prepare yourself:

  • Find a team of trusted professionals. You'll need to make important decisions about your child's education and treatment. Create a team of doctors, teachers and therapists and other professionals who can help you evaluate the resources in your area and explain state and federal programs for children with disabilities.

    Medical specialties your child might require include pediatrics and developmental pediatrics, infectious diseases, neurology, ophthalmology, genetics and psychology.

  • Seek other families who are dealing with the same issues. Your community might have support groups for parents of children with developmental disabilities. You might also find online support groups.

Preparing for your appointment

If you've just learned your child has microcephaly or you suspect your child's head is too small, you're likely to start by seeing your pediatrician. However, in some cases, your pediatrician may refer you to a pediatric neurologist.

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do

  • Write down your concerns about your child, including those regarding small head size or delayed development. If you're worried about your child's head size, try to get the hat sizes or measure the head circumference of as many first-degree relatives, such as parents and siblings, as possible for comparison.
  • Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help you remember information you get from your doctor.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

For microcephaly, some basic questions to ask your doctor might include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my child's condition?
  • Does my child need additional tests? If so, do these tests require special preparation?
  • What treatments are available?
  • What course of action do you think is best for my child?
  • Is there a treatment that will return my child's head to a normal size?
  • If I have additional children, what are the chances they'll have microcephaly?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Oct. 20, 2017
References
  1. Hay WW, et al. Neurological assessment and neurodiagnostics. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 22nd ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2014. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015.
  2. Boom JA. Microcephaly in infants: Etiology and evaluation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015.
  3. NINDS microcephaly information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/microcephaly/microcephaly.htm. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015.
  4. Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 20, 2015.