Craniosynotosis is a rare condition, found in around three in every 10,000 babies at birth. Craniosynotosis occurs when the joints (sutures) that join the plates which make up a baby’s skull prematurely fuse together. During birth, the sutures need to be flexible to aid the natural birthing process and they need to continue to remain open to allow the brain to grow naturally within the skull.
Over time as brain growth completes, the sutures fuse together naturally to strengthen the skull casing and provide a protective barrier for the brain. In the case of craniosynotosis, one or more of these sutures fuse prematurely usually before birth, causing the head to develop an unusual shape as skull growth is inhibited.
The condition can often be confused with plagiocephaly and other flat head syndrome symptoms as they both result in skull deformation. A more detailed exploration of the key differences between plagiocephaly and craniosynotosis can be found on our blog. At Technology in Motion, we see on average one in every hundred infants that have a head shape which is not typical of deformational plagiocephaly. A synostosis is an absolute contraindication for cranial remoulding treatment and if we are in doubt as to the reason for the deformity, we will always refer a baby back to their GP for further investigation.
What are the options for Craniosynotosis Treatment in the UK?
If we suspect that a baby has an undiagnosed synotosis, we will not offer treatment and instead refer back to a GP or specialist craniofacial or neurosurgeon so appropriate investigations and treatment options can be explored. If craniosynotosis is diagnosed, operating on the skull is the only way to bring about correction.
There are a number of surgical procedures which can be carried out to treat craniosynotosis, as indicated by the NHS, these include:
Open surgery: This is carried out under a general anaesthetic and involves the neurosurgeon making an incision across the scalp to expose and allow removal of the affected areas of the skull and this. Depending on the suture which is involved, this area can be reshaped by the surgeon and the reshaped bone is returned to its original position and the incision is sealed.
Endoscopic surgery: An alternative surgical treatment involves keyhole surgery, using an endoscope (surgical telescope) beneath the scalp to reopen the suture and restore the ability for normal skull growth. This treatment method is recommended for children under six months when the skull is still malleable. This technique is used in the USA and in parts of Europe but remains controversial in the UK.
A breakthrough in Craniosynostosis cell use in the USA
The future of the use of cells which are involved in creating craniosynostosis has seen recent developments in the USA as a team of scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center have discovered a way to grow facial bones and pieces of skull.
The scientists have successfully isolated and identified a stem cell population in a recent study on mice that is capable of skull formation and cranial regeneration. This technique if transferable may become useful for those who have to undergo major facial or cranial reconstructive surgery.
Senior author Wei Hsu Ph.D. states that “these cells, which reside in the suture midline, contribute directly to injury repair and skeletal regeneration in a cell autonomous fashion”. The revolutionary research demonstrated that the stem cell population which is central to skull formation is unique to the bones of the head and can be used to form millions more to form a new bone plate. This is crucial step forward in using stem cells to reconstruct the bones of the head in future, offering a revolutionary method of treatment.
So answering the question, is the cause of craniosynostosis finally being unlocked? It seems the future of craniosynotosis treatment lies within the stem cell breakthrough founded by researchers at the University of Rochester and their revolutionary study which has the power to transform how craniosynotosis will be treated in the future.
For infants who have a head shape deformity we offer a free consultation with one of our expert orthotists, call 0330 100 1800 or fill in the enquiry form to book an appointment at one of our clinics.
Maruyama T, Jeong J, Sheu TJ, Hsu W. “Stem cells of the suture mesenchyme in craniofacial bone development, repair and regeneration.” Nature communications. 2016 7:10526. Epub 2016 Feb 01.