My baby has fused bones in her skull, is surgery necessary?

Q: My doctor said the bones in my baby's skull fused too soon and that surgery is needed to fix it. Are there any risks involved if we don't have the operation?

A: This is a condition known as craniosynostosis, which affects one in every 2,000 babies and is usually diagnosed through a physical exam, CT scan, and x-rays. Most often the effects are just cosmetic, meaning your child's head may be misshapen. But sometimes the bones fuse so tightly that they don't leave enough space for the brain to continue growing, which is more serious and surgery is usually the preferred treatment to fix it.

It's natural to be concerned about the risks involved with an operation on your child's skull, so seek opinions from different neurosurgeons. If it's determined that your child's brain has enough space to grow and the fusion is only at the back of the head (where it's not very noticeable), then surgery is probably not immediately necessary and you can wait to see how your child's head shape will develop before deciding whether or not to operate. However, if it looks as though your child's rapidly growing brain will become overcrowded or the malformation is at the front of the head (which can cause some very severe facial deformities), then surgery is usually the way to go.

If you opt to have the surgery it's best to act quickly, since treatment is most effective while your child's bones are still growing (within the first year is optimal). Although the procedure is a major surgery, most children recover well with a short hospital stay and go on to lead completely normal lives.

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.

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