Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions


What is craniosynostosis?


Sutures most often involved in craniosynostosis (drawn by Raymond Sze)

Craniosynostosis (pronounced crane-eo-sin-os-TOW-sis) is when one or more of the special joints in a baby's skull (sutures) grow together (fuse) earlier than normal. When these joints come together too early, a baby's skull cannot grow properly.

Sutures are located between the bone plates in a baby's skull. They allow the baby's head to come through the birth canal. After birth, the sutures let the skull get bigger to make room for brain growth.

After infancy, the sutures slowly begin to grow together to fully connect the skull bones. The skull bones begin to grow together when children are about 2 or 3 years old, but the process is not fully complete until adulthood.

The diagram below shows the several sutures in a baby's skull. A baby can have one or more fused sutures.

When any of the sutures grow together early, the baby's head develops a specific shape, depending on where the fusion occurs. You can usually see an unusual shape to a baby's head at birth or shortly after. When several sutures close early, the baby's head can't expand to hold the growing brain. This can cause increased pressure in the skull that may hurt brain development.

Introduction to Craniosynostosis

Dr. Carrie Heike explains what craniosynostosis is and provides an overview of the different types of the condition.

Craniosynostosis in Children

Craniosynostosis is usually present when babies are born (congenital). There are different types of craniosynostosis. Most children with craniosynostosis have only one fused suture. Otherwise, they are healthy. Craniosynostosis of the sagittal suture - where two bones on the top of the head come together - is the most common type. It happens most often in boys.

Doctors don't know exactly what causes craniosynostosis. Sometimes craniosynostosis is part of a genetic syndrome, such as Crouzon syndrome, Apert syndrome, and Saethre-Chotzen syndrome. A syndrome is a disease or disorder that has more than one feature or symptom and is thought to come from a common cause.

Craniosynostosis at Seattle Children's

We have a great deal of experience caring for children with craniosynostosis. Our program is one of the largest in the country. Our craniofacial team works together to care for children with craniosynostosis. Each year we evaluate about 80 new children with craniosynostosis and perform about 90 surgeries to correct this condition.

Conditions like craniosynostosis can present challenges that require the expertise of many specialists working together. If your child is diagnosed with craniosynostosis, they will be cared for by a multidisciplinary healthcare team at Seattle Children's to care for the whole child. Their team will include a craniofacial plastic surgeon, a pediatric neurosurgeon, a pediatrician, a nurse and a social worker. Other team providers such as dietitians, ophthalmologists, otolaryngologists, orthodontists and oral surgeons are available as needed.