What is craniosynostosis?

Craniosynostosis is a condition in which the sutures (growth seams) in an infant’s skull close too early, causing problems with normal brain and skull growth. Premature closure of the sutures may also cause the pressure inside of the head to increase and the skull or facial bones to change from a normal, symmetrical appearance.

Premature closure can involve any suture of the cranial vault or cranial base. When only one suture is prematurely fused, the condition is referred to as simple craniosynostosis. When two or more sutures are affected, it is referred to as multiple-suture synostosis.

Craniosynostosis can occur as an isolated condition, resulting in non-syndromic craniosynostosis, or in conjunction with other anomalies as part of a syndrome.

Watch this short video to learn more about the different types of craniosynostosis and treatment approaches.

Syndromic craniosynostosis

Syndromic craniosynostosis is caused by an inherited or genetic condition and characterized by a collection of physical and developmental features that have a common cause. There are more than 90 syndromes currently associated with craniosynostosis, the majority of which involve related anomalies of the limbs, ears and cardiovascular system. Those most commonly treated by plastic surgeons include:

Learn more about how syndromic craniosynostosis is diagnosed and treated at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia »

Non-syndromic craniosynostosis

Non-syndromic craniosynostosis is a non-inherited condition that generally only involves the fusion of a single suture in the skull. Non-syndromic craniosynostosis is not associated with other physical and developmental anomalies and is much more common than syndromic disorders.

The exact diagnosis and appearance of children with non-syndromic craniosynostosis depends on which suture is affected. We treat children with many forms of non-syndromic craniosynostosis, including:

  • Unicoronal synostosis (anterior plagiocephaly or unilateral coronal synostosis)
  • Bicoronal synostosis (brachycephaly)
  • Sagittal synostosis (scaphocephaly)
  • Metopic synostosis (trigonocephaly)
  • Lambdoid synostosis (posterior plagiocephaly)
  • Complex multiple suture synostosis

Learn more about how non-syndromic craniosynostosis is diagnosed and treated at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia »

Reviewed by Scott P. Bartlett, MD, Jesse A. Taylor, MD

Craniofacial Patient Daniel

Watch: All About Craniofacial Conditions

Learn about the diagnosis and treatment of craniofacial conditions, including craniosynostosis, hemifacial microsomia, and other syndromes.

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Why Choose the Craniofacial Program

CHOP’s Craniofacial Program is one of the Nation’s leading treatment programs for children with both congenital and acquired anomalies of the face and skull.