Craniosynostosis is a medical condition that can affect infants and children. It occurs when the fibrous joints of the skull, called sutures, start closing too early. This early closure inhibits the natural, necessary growth of the brain and skull. Besides impairing growth, this condition can also lead to excess pressure in the patient's head and alteration of the bones of the face and skull.
A normal skull has multiple bone plates, which are kept separate by sutures. Eventually, the sutures close, and the infant is left with a solid bone that is referred to as the skull. Unfortunately, craniosynostosis affects some infants, leading to serious skull abnormalities. The condition is found in about one in 2,000 infants. It is twice as likely to afflict male children as female children.
In many cases, it seems that craniosynostosis occurs without cause and by chance. However, the condition can also be inherited. For example, the condition is sometimes inherited when a patient receives one recessive--not dominant--gene for it from each parent. In such a case, both parents must be carriers. When both parents are carriers, the couple has a 25-percent chance of having a child with the condition.
In other cases, the condition is passed along because one parent has the autosomal dominant gene for it. An autosomal gene is found on a chromosome that does not determine gender. In such a case, just one gene from one parent is enough to pass the condition on to the child. When one parent has the autosomal dominant gene for the condition, the chances of passing the condition along are 50 percent for each pregnancy the couple experiences.
One of the main symptoms of craniosynostosis is a noticeable abnormality in the shape of the infant's head. For example, the face may not appear symmetrical. Sometimes the soft spot on the infant's head will bulge or veins of the scalp may be more evident than usual. In some cases, an affected infant may be abnormally sleepy, especially irritable, or developmentally delayed. Infant patients may not eat well, or they may experience projectile vomiting; some infants may have bulging eyes or seizures.
Surgery is often recommend for the treatment of craniosynostosis, though this depends on a number of factors, including the child's overall health, type of craniosynostosis, and age. Surgery is usually performed to minimize pressure within the head and fix abnormalities. Often, surgery is often performed before a child's first birthday. However, it may be performed very early if the condition is severe.