Chromosomal and Genetic Conditions

Craniofacial (Hemifacial) Microsomia

What Is Craniofacial (Hemifacial) Microsomia?

Children with craniofacial microsomia (CFM) have a small or underdeveloped part of the face, usually the ear and jaw. The eye, cheek and neck may also be affected.

This is the second-most common facial birth defect after clefts.

Craniofacial microsomia has many other names, including hemifacial microsomia, first and second branchial arch syndrome, otomandibular dysostosis, oculo-auriculo-vertebral sequence, facio-auriculo vertebral syndrome, Goldenhar syndrome and lateral facial dysplasia.

Craniofacial Microsomia in Children

We don't know why children are born with craniofacial microsomia, but we believe that something affects the development of the face during early pregnancy because the process starts in the first three months. However, it is clear that CFM is not caused by anything the parent did or did not do.

For most children, craniofacial microsomia is not inherited and it won't be passed on from a parent to a child.

However, if a couple has had a child with craniofacial microsomia, the chance that they will have another child with CFM is about 3%.

Rare families have a higher chance of having another child with CFM. For children who have a family history of relatives with similar facial differences, we recommend a referral to a geneticist and/or a genetic counselor.

The counselor will talk about the chance of having another child with similar differences, as well as other family planning issues.

Craniofacial Microsomia at Seattle Children's

Our team has a great deal of experience taking care of children with CFM. It is one of the most common problems that we treat. Over the past five years, we have treated 423 children with CFM.

Each year we have at least 45 new children come to our Center for treatment. Each year we perform an average of 76 surgeries for this condition.

Learn about research at Seattle Children's into craniofacial microsomia and microtia, which often affects children with craniofacial microsomia.