Treatment goals focus on relieving pressure inside the head, ensuring enough room for the brain to grow and correcting skull and facial deformities. At Children’s National, we may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Surgery before age 1, while the skull bones are relatively soft
- Minimally invasive surgery for infants younger than 3 months to open skull sutures for normal skull and brain growth
- Traditional surgery for infants 6 months or older to correct the skull’s shape
- Cranial (skull) molding using helmets to reshape the skull
Specific treatment for craniosynostosis will be determined by your child's doctor based on:
- Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
- Extent of the craniosynostosis
- Type of craniosynostosis (which sutures are involved)
- Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the craniosynostosis
- Your opinion or preference
Surgery is typically the recommended treatment. The goal of treatment is to reduce the pressure in the head and correct the deformities of the face and skull bones. Less commonly, surgery is needed to decrease pressure within the skull.
The optimal time to perform surgery is before the child is 1 year of age since the bones are still very soft, have not fused at other sutures, and are easy to work with. Surgery may be necessary at a much earlier age depending on the severity of the condition. Because blood loss can be an issue in this type of surgery, surgery is often delayed in the very young child to allow some growth and development and a greater blood volume. Most procedures are done between 3 and 8 months of age.
Before surgery, your child's doctor will explain the operation and may review "before and after" photographs of children who may have had a similar type of surgery.
Following the operation, it is common for the child to have a turban-like dressing around his or her head. The face and eyelids may be swollen after this type of surgery. The child is typically transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) after the operation for close monitoring.
Problems after surgery may occur suddenly or over a period of time. The child may experience any or all of the following complications:
- Fever (greater than 101 degrees F)
- Redness and swelling along the incision areas
- Decreased alertness
These complications require prompt evaluation by your child's surgeon. The healthcare team educates the family after surgery on how to best care for their child at home, and outlines specific problems that require immediate medical attention.