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Craniosynostosis: Abnormal shaped head in babies

A baby with a mis-shapen head may be diagnosed with a rare condition called craniosynostosis.

This condition happens when the separate plates of bone that form the baby's skull fuse together sooner than normal instead of allowing for further growth. The condition can affect a single plate or several plates.

It isn't clear why this happens to some babies, but some genetic conditions make it more likely, and it is more common in boys than it is in girls.

The condition can put extra pressure on the brain, and there can be a risk of developing speech and language problems and other development problems.

Craniosynostosis is initially diagnosed by the shape of the head, and a referral will usually be made to a specialist centre for further assessment. Tests carried out may include CT scans and X-rays of the skull.

In some cases, no treatment will be needed for craniosynostosis, and the baby will be monitored over a period of time.

A decision about whether an operation is needed to correct the shape of the head will depend on how severe the abnormality is and whether there are risks to the baby's health and development.

The way the child looks for cosmetic reasons is also a key consideration for their future self-esteem and to avoid teasing or bullying. However, surgery may be delayed until later on to avoid repeat surgery being needed as the skull continues to grow and further fusion of the bones occurs.

After a procedure to correct simpler cases, a child will usually grow up with a naturally shaped head.

Specialist care and continuing psychological help may be needed in some cases.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 21, 2017

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