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Diagnosing and Treating Craniosynostosis

A parent or other family member may be the first to notice a baby’s “weird head shape,” or a pediatrician may point out that an infant has an abnormally shaped head. Parents may notice some of the other symptoms of craniosynostosis. In many cases, a misshapen head is the result of a baby’s spending a lot of time on his or her back – that kind of “flat head” is called deformational plagiocephaly and typically resolves itself over time, but craniosyntosis usually does not.

The actual diagnosis is based primarily on physical exam. CT scans, MRI and/or X-ray imaging are usually not necessary, but they may be used to confirm a diagnosis. 

An infant or child with craniosynostosis should be evaluated by an expert craniofacial team consisting of a pediatric neurosurgeon and a craniofacial plastic surgeon. These experts will determine if treatment is necessary, and if it is they will recommend the best treatment plan.  (See Doctors Who Treat Craniosynostosis.)

Surgery is the only effective form of correcting serious cranial defects. The surgery depends on which suture is involved; some newer, minimally invasive techniques procedures can be done endoscopically and require follow-up use of a helmet to help in reshaping the head.  (See Surgery for Craniosynostosis.)

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Reviewed by: Mark M. Souweidane, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated:  January 2019