Surgery is the only effective treatment for craniosynostosis, because fused sutures must be opened to allow the brain to expand. This is not something that will happen naturally, and a child cannot “outgrow” craniosynostosis. An experienced pediatric craniofacial surgeon must create new openings in the skull to allow for the rapid brain growth that takes place in the first year of life. Surgery for craniosynostosis is safe and produces excellent results.
There are several surgical options for treating craniosynostosis, depending on which type it is. It is usually best to perform surgery at just a few weeks to a few months of age, since the skull bones are the softest and most malleable then. The craniofacial team that evaluates a child will recommend the best surgery based on which suture closed prematurely and the degree of deformity.
Open surgical corrections include cranial vault remodeling, fronto-orbital advancement, and vertex craniectomy, which are safe and produce excellent results. In these surgeries, a neurosurgeon removes the affected or closed suture as well as the bones that have become misshapen over time as a result of the fusion, and then a plastic surgeon “remodels” the skull. The surgery usually takes between two and six hours and requires three days in the hospital, depending on the age of the child and which suture is involved. Some children need blood transfusions during the surgery. No helmet therapy is needed after open surgical correction.
Endoscopic-assisted strip craniectomy (also called endoscopic assisted suturectomy) is a minimally invasive approach to craniosynostosis surgery. As in the open approach, a neurosurgeon removes the closed suture – but unlike the open approach, the endoscopic procedure does not include cranial remodeling. This minimally invasive procedure is typically performed on infants younger than four months of age, since it depends on rapid brain growth to help reposition the cranial bones. Endoscopic assisted suturectomy usually takes an hour in the operating room and requires a shorter hospital stay. After endoscopic surgery for craniosynostosis, the child will wear a cranial remodeling helmet to help reshape the skull. Find out more about minimally invasive endoscopic surgery for craniosynostosis.
VIDEO FAQS: The video below is from our Video FAQ series, which we created as a resource for parents considering their options. Visit the full playlist for more.
With all corrective forms of treatment, brain function and development are expected to be normal and there are no special precautions or significant limitations on activities.
Find out more about the multidisciplinary Craniosynostosis Program at Weill Cornell Medicine Pediatric Neurosurgery, or use our online form to request an appointment for a consultation or second opinion.
Visit suturectomy.org for more information about minimally invasive surgery for craniosynostosis.
Dr. Caitlin Hoffman and Dr. Thomas Imahiyerobo of the NewYork-Presbyterian Craniosynostosis Program review some of the most commonly asked questions parents have about craniosynostosis
Reviewed by: Caitlin Hoffman, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: June 2023