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Craniosynostosis (kray-nee-o-sin-os-TOE-sis) is a word that means “the skull has fused bones.” The condition is a birth defect where one or more of the bones in a baby’s skull fuse and close too early. Babies have fibrous joints between the bones (cranial sutures) and a soft spot (fontanelle) which allow for the brain and head to grow quickly in the first years of life.
If one of those joints of the skull closes too early it can give the baby’s head a misshapen appearance. In severe cases, this fusion of the joint can cause compression on the brain. Craniosynostosis usually involves fusion of a single cranial suture but can involve more than one of the sutures in a baby’s skull (complex craniosynostosis). In rare cases, craniosynostosis is caused by certain genetic syndromes (syndromic craniosynostosis). Treating craniosynostosis involves surgery to correct the shape of the head and allow for normal brain growth. Early diagnosis and treatment allow your baby’s brain adequate space to grow and develop.
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Plagiocephaly, sometimes known as “flat head syndrome,” is another condition that creates a change in head shape but does not need surgery to correct the problem. This condition is very common and affects nearly one in two infants to some degree. Plagiocephaly is characterized by the development of a flat spot on the back or side of the head.
This can be caused by many factors including back sleeping, car seats, or a tight muscle on one side of the baby’s neck (torticollis) that causes him or her to prefer to turn the head to one side. In other cases, it may be caused by womb position, multiple births, or premature birth. For babies who develop a flat spot on the back of the head, repositioning during sleep and supervised tummy time may solve the problem.
For patients who still have a flat spot after trying repositioning, a cranial helmet may be required. If you have concerns about your baby’s head shape, come see Dr. Rodman for an evaluation. She will ask questions about your baby’s birth history and health history as well as perform a physical exam. In some cases, imaging such as a CT scan or MRI may be needed. In most cases, the correction of the head shape does not require surgery.
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