Craniosynostosis is a birth defect that causes the sutures (the soft tissues between the bones of a child’s skull) to fuse too early, causing pressure on the brain. These sutures typically close around 2 years of age allowing room for the brain to grow before the bones of the skull come together.

This condition causes the baby’s head to have an abnormal shape. If left untreated, other problems can develop due to the lack of space for the growing brain.

Signs & Symptoms

The signs of craniosynostosis are usually present at the time of birth. These symptoms include:

  • Abnormal head shape
  • No soft spot on the skull (no fontanelle)
  • Slow growth of head

Causes & Risks

The cause of craniosynostosis is unknown. It may be caused by:

  • Abnormal genes passed down from parent to child (inherited)
  • Genetic syndromes or disorders, such as an abnormally small head (microcephaly) or excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus)
  • Metabolic diseases, such as thyroid problem or rickets

If left untreated, the following problems may develop:

  • Developmental delays
  • Feeding problems
  • Delays in learning
  • Hearing loss
  • Blindness
  • Increased pressure inside the skull
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage

Diagnosis & Treatment

Craniosynostosis is diagnosed with a physical exam to feel for hard, bony ridges in your baby’s skull along with several measurements to compare the placement of his or her eyes and ears. Other exams include:

  • Xrays or CT scans
  • Blood work

Treatment for craniosynostosis commonly involves surgery to increase the volume of the skull which reduces pressure on brain and improves the abnormal shape of the head. Surgical intervention during the first year of life ensures that your baby’s brain has room to grow normally.

Advanced Expertise

At UChicago Medicine, our dedicated neurosurgeons are here to help. For more information about craniosynostosis and the resources we have available, please call the Margaret Hackett Family Program (MHFP) at 773-795-0622, or email us at mhfcp@bsd.uchicago.edu.

Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Russell Reid, MD, PhD., with Trish Lawson and her daughter Molly Lawson, 15 months old, at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM)

Craniofacial Anomalies Multidisciplinary Program (CAMP)

Our Craniofacial Anomalies Multidisciplinary Program (CAMP), one of the largest in the region, provides a thorough, team-based approach for the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of children with craniosynostosis.

Learn more about our CAMP program

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