Craniosynostosis care in the Rocky Mountain region

Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children’s (RMHC) Pediatric Neuroscience Center is able to treat your baby’s case of craniosynostosis. Evaluations are provided by Dr. Renatta Osterdock to give you a detailed look at your child’s skull and what measures we will take together.

To request an evaluation from Dr. Osterdock, please call our physician referral line at (877) 752-2737.

What is craniosynostosis?

A normal skull consists of several plates of bone that are separated by sutures, or fibrous joints. The sutures are found between the bony plates in the head. As an infant grows and develops, the sutures close, forming a solid piece of bone, called the skull.

Craniosynostosis is a condition where the sutures that separate the skull’s bone plates close too early. This affects your child’s normal brain and skull growth and causes pressure inside of his or her head. This pressure causes the facial bones to shift from its normal symmetrical appearance.

What causes craniosynostosis?

This inherited condition happens sporadically. It is a genetic condition that is inherited as either a dominant or recessive gene. If this trait is recessive, it means that your child has a 25 percent chance of inheriting this condition. If the gene is dominant, your child has a 50 percent chance of inheriting that trait. This condition affects males and females equally.

Types of craniosynostosis

There are various types of craniosynostosis. Names are given depending on the sutures that are affected.

  • Anterior plagiocephaly—This condition involves the fusion of the right or left side of the suture that runs from ear to ear (coronal suture). This causes the forehead and brow to stop growing, resulting in a flattening of the forehead and brow on the affected side. The forehead will stick out on the opposite side and the eyes on the affected side will have a different shape.
  • Posterior plagiocephaly—This fusion causes the back of the infant's head to flatten
  • Trigonocephaly—This fusion of the forehead suture causes the forehead to look pointed, like a triangle.
  • Scaphocephaly—This is a fusion of the suture that runs from the front to back and down the middle of the top of the head that causes the skull to form into a long, narrow shape.

Craniosynostosis symptoms

True craniosynostosis can be seen at birth. The infant’s head shape and face will noticeably change. If your child’s face is not the same on each side, you may be able to find other symptoms, including:

  • A bulging soft spot on top of the head
  • Sleepiness
  • Noticeable scalp veins
  • High-pitched cry
  • Poor feeding
  • Increased irritability
  • Projectile vomiting
  • An increasing head size
  • Seizures
  • Bulging eyes
  • Developmental delays

Craniosynostosis diagnosis

Because craniosynostosis can be present at birth (congenital) or observed later during a physical exam, the diagnosis is made after a thorough diagnostic test. Your child’s doctor will obtain a complete birth history about your child and his or her family history. In some instances, genetic counseling may be needed to determine if there are any hereditary disorders that run in the family. If there is a concern about this condition, you will be referred to a pediatric neurosurgeon for evaluation.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed to confirm craniosynostosis include X-rays of the head and computed tomography scans (CAT or CT scans).

Craniosynostosis treatment

Special treatment for your child’s condition is determined by:

  • Your child’s age
  • Overall health and medical history
  • The severity of the condition
  • Which sutures are involved
  • Your child’s medication, procedure and therapy tolerance
  • Your opinion or preference
  • Expectations for the treatment course

Surgery is usually the recommended treatment for this condition to reduce the pressure in your child’s head and correct the abnormalities in your child’s face and skull. Surgery is better when the child is younger because the bones are softer and easier to work with. Depending on the severity of the condition, surgery may be needed at an earlier age.

Our team of specialists have extensive training in treating a wide range of maternal-fetal conditions , including craniosynostosis. The expertise of our physicians, support from our entire multidisciplinary team and the vast resources at our facility allow us to provide the very best care for your child.

Before the surgery

A full explanation will be provided by the pediatric neurosurgeon about the operation. You and your child will be shown pictures of previous patients who underwent a similar procedure. Depending on your surgery, your child may interact with our ear, nose and throat doctors, plastic surgeons or any additional pediatric surgeons.

After the surgery

After the operation, your child will be transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU)  for his or her blood levels to be monitored closely. Generally, your child’s face and eyelids will be swollen and your child will be awake and eating within a few hours after surgery. A small drain is placed under his or her skin to assist with the swelling.

After the PICU, your child will be transported to a normal hospital room. Once you child’s behavior and eating patterns return to normal, he or she can go home. The typical hospital stay for this procedure is three days.