Diagnosis

To determine if your child has microcephaly, your provider likely will take a thorough prenatal, birth and family history and do a physical exam. Your provider 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 health care provider may order 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 to maximize your child's abilities.

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


Coping and support

When you learn your child has microcephaly, you may feel many different emotions. You may not know what to expect, and you may worry about your child's future. The best remedy for fear and worry is information and support.

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

    Your child may require care from several medical specialties, including pediatrics and developmental pediatrics, infectious diseases, neurology, ophthalmology, genetics, and psychology.

  • Seek other families 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 and your child get ready for the appointment, and what to expect from the doctor.

What you can do

Before your child's appointment, make a list of:

  • Symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the appointment
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent changes in your child's life
  • Any medications, including vitamins, herbs and over-the-counter medicines that your child is taking, and their dosages
  • Questions to ask your child's doctor to make the most of your time

You may want to ask about 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 circumferences of several first-degree relatives, such as parents and siblings, for comparison.

Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.

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

  • What's likely causing my child's symptoms?
  • Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my child's symptoms?
  • Does my child need additional tests? If so, do these tests require special preparation?
  • What's the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
  • Is there a treatment that will return my child's head to a more typical 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?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions.


May 26, 2022

  1. Safier RA, et al., eds. Neurology. In: Zitelli and Davis' Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. 8th ed. Elsevier; 2023. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 13, 2022.
  2. Boom JA. Microcephaly in infants and children: Etiology and evaluation. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 13, 2022.
  3. Facts about microcephaly. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html. Accessed March 26, 2022.
  4. Microcephaly information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Microcephaly-Information-Page. Accessed March 13, 2022.
  5. AskMayoExpert. Craniosynostosis and positional plagiocephaly (infant). Mayo Clinic; 2022.
  6. Nielsen-Saines K. Congenital Zika virus infection: Clinical features, evaluation, and management of the neonate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 13, 2022.
  7. Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. April 1, 2022.

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