Posted by Claudia Grazioso on April 27, 2011
Any birth defect can feel like a kick in the gut to a new parent. And one like craniosynostosis can just about knock you out. If your child has been born with this birth defect, or if you fear that he or she will be, know that this is a survivable condition.
Craniosynostosis means that the sutures on a baby’s head fuse or close too soon. The sutures are connections that separate the bones that form the skull. Normally, they take some time to close after birth, from 12 to 18 months, as the baby’s brain is still growing and developing. When the sutures close too soon, it can result in a misshapen or deformed head.
The most common form of cranisynostosis is called sagittal synostosis, or scaphocephaly. This is when the main suture on the top of the head fuses too early and the frequent result is an elongated and narrow head. Another common form is frontal plagiocephaly, and it usually affects one side of the sutures that run ear to ear. It is believed to be more common in girls. An especially rare form of craniosynostosis is metopic synostosis and it affects the sutures in the front of the head and can result in a significant deformity.
All of the causes of this frightening birth defect are not known, but there has been a link noted between craniosynostosis and maternal use of certain antidepressants during pregnancy. Mothers who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy are believed to have a higher risk of having a child with craniosynostosis. Other factors that can lead to an increased risk for craniosynostosis are hereditary factors, like Apert’s Syndrome or Crouzon Syndrome.
As with many conditions, early detection of this birth defect is important. Some symptoms of craniosynostosis are an absence of a soft spot (a fontanelle) on the infant’s head; a raised, hardened ridge along the skull’s sutures; or an unusually shaped head. If you notice any of these symptoms, express your concerns to your doctor immediately. Once a diagnosis of craniosynostosis has been made, treatment can begin. Frequently, in the case of this birth defect, that means surgery. Most doctors will want to perform this operation before the child is a year old as that’s when the bones that form the skull are still somewhat soft, and because they hope to decrease pressure on the infant’s growing brain.
After surgery, most children will be sent to ICU, so their condition can be closely monitored. Follow up visits with your physician are critical to make sure that your child’s brain is developing normally and that there are no lasting deformities. As a parent you need to be watchful for developmental delays that could indicate the need for further treatment.