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 craniosynostosis usually does not.
The actual diagnosis is based primarily on physical exam. CT scans, MRI, ultrasound 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 craniosynostosis. The surgical approach depends on which suture is involved; some newer, minimally invasive endoscopic correction can be performed in children under 4 months of age, with follow-up use of a helmet to help in reshaping the head. (See Surgery for Craniosynostosis.)
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- Victor and Tara Menezes Clinical Scholar in Neuroscience
- Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery in Pediatrics
- Vice Chairman, Neurological Surgery
- Director, Pediatric Neurological Surgery
Reviewed by: Caitlin Hoffman, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: June 2023