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Rady Children's Specialists

About Craniosynostosis

What is Craniosynostosis?

• Cranio = skull
• Synostosis = fusion of open areas (sutures)

Craniosynostosis is a term used to describe the premature fusion of one or more of the skull’s sutures before the brain is fully grown.


The infant skull consists of five plates of bone held together by clear, fibrous areas called sutures (see adjacent diagram). The sutures should remain open as long as the brain continues to grow, enabling the skull to expand and properly accommodate the brain’s growth.

When a suture closes, a predictable abnormality of head shape occurs. In certain children, changes around the eyes and face may occur because of fusion of the sutures in the cranial base. When this occurs, the child often has an associated craniofacial syndrome that must be diagnosed by a skilled geneticist.

Diagnosing and Treating Craniofacial Skull Deformities

Pediatric skull deformities appear in many ways. The underlying causes may be multiple and once the diagnosis is established, proper treatment can be recommended. Using modern techniques, pediatric neurosurgeons and craniofacial plastic surgeons treat a wide array of skull deformities. A team approach is employed, combining the expertise of the pediatric craniofacial plastic surgeon, a specialist in reshaping and repositioning the bones of the skull and face, and the pediatric neurosurgeon. In addition, diagnostic evaluation and treatment of more complex deformities, such as cleft lip and palate, craniosynostosis, and hemifacial microsomia requires a geneticist, orthodontist, pediatric dentist, speech pathologist, social worker and other specialists.

How is Craniosynostosis Diagnosed?

  • The skull deformity is easily recognized.
  • A CT scan confirms the diagnosis.
  • A craniofacial and pediatric neurosurgeon make the final diagnosis.
  • A geneticist is consulted in unusual cases.