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What is Craniosynostosis? | Affinity Health

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, discusses the impact of craniosynostosis – a birth condition in which the bones of a baby’s skull fuse too soon.

Fitz Beres was born in February 2017 to Mallory and Matt. After birth, doctors discovered that Fitz was born with a deformed skull. The plates in Fitz’s skull were remarkably close together. His soft spot was smaller than normal. The soft spot is the space between the bones of the skull where bone formation is not complete.

The condition that Fitz was suffering from is craniosynostosis. Doctors diagnosed him with craniosynostosis at the age of five weeks. Doctors referred Fitz to a craniofacial surgeon Dr Niyant Patel. Along with a team of surgeons, Dr Patel performed a life-saving operation. This operation served to reshape Fitz’s skull. Read more about his story here.

What Exactly Is Craniosynostosis?

Craniosynostosis is a rare congenital condition. It happens when the bones of a baby’s skull fuse too soon. It could place your baby’s development in danger. This condition occurs before the baby’s brain has completed development in the womb. The skull may become more deformed as the baby’s brain develops.


If the baby does receive treatment, there could be adverse effects. The pressure build-up in the baby’s skull can cause the following complications:

  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage


The exact number of cases in South Africa is unavailable. Yet researchers estimate that one in every 2,500 babies born suffer craniosynostosis. The reasons for craniosynostosis are unconclusive. But researchers assume that a combination of genes and environmental factors cause craniosynostosis. A huge factor is what the mother encounters. Mothers need to guard their immediate environment, nutrition and medication during pregnancy.


Research makes extra suggestions about women who have thyroid illnesses. Sometimes, a pregnant woman might be receiving treatment for thyroid disease. This could increase dangers of having a craniosynostosis-affected child.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Craniosynostosis?

An obstetrician often notices craniosynostosis shortly after the baby arrives. Doctors might also sometimes diagnose the onset of the condition later in life. An unusually formed skull is usually the first evidence of craniosynostosis.


Other indicators may include:
  • A full or bulging fontanelle (soft spot located on the top of the head)
  • Poor feeding
  • Very noticeable scalp veins
  • Increasing head circumference
  • Slow or no growth in the size of the baby’s head over time
  • Developmental delays


During a physical examination, doctors can detect craniosynostosis. A doctor will examine the baby’s skull for hard edges along the sutures and strange soft patches. The doctor will also look for any issues with the baby’s face shape. A doctor might suspect the baby has craniosynostosis. This is when they will usually order one or more tests. These tests serve to confirm the diagnosis.


CT or CAT scan, for example, can show the features of the skull and brain. A CT scan will also show if certain sutures are open and how the brain is growing.

Will a Baby with Craniosynostosis Need Surgery?

Some – but not all – forms of craniosynostosis may need surgery. Surgeons intend to relieve pressure on the brain. Then they correct craniosynostosis and allow the brain to grow as expected.

Surgeons may tend to prefer operating during the first year of life. In cases of babies with minor craniosynostosis, life may continue without surgery. The form of the baby’s skull may become less evident as they grow older (and grow hair). Babies can wear medical helmets to assist in moulding their skulls into a more regular form.”

“Each craniosynostosis baby is unique. The condition can range from mild to severe,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. “The majority of kids born with craniosynostosis are otherwise healthy. A varying range of children may suffer developmental delays or intellectual disabilities. This is because craniosynostosis can hinder the baby’s brain development,” concludes Hewlett.

Learn More: The Importance of Early Monitoring During Pregnancy

An infant with craniosynostosis will need to see a doctor. Doctor visits might be frequent to check brain development. Early treatment helps babies with craniosynostosis. Treatment reduces developmental delays or intellectual issues.


Some children with craniosynostosis may struggle with self-esteem. This is the case when they might have visual differences compared to other children. Parent-to-parent support groups can also benefit new families with newborns. Support groups help parents deal with birth anomalies such as craniosynostosis.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance. We offer a wide range of cover options at affordable rates. Medical cover includes access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance. We have designed healthcare products to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to always give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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