Scaphocephaly is a deformity of the skull in which the skull acquires an elongated appearance. This condition can be caused by a condition known as craniosynostosis, in which the sutures of the skull close too early, or it can be positional, meaning that the deformity was caused by pressure put on the skull. Treatment for scaphocephaly varies, depending on the severity and the cause. If intervention is provided early, a patient's skull will develop normally, creating a normal head shape.
The infant skull is a very interesting example of natural engineering. When babies are born, their skulls are not solid like those of adults, but rather divided into a series of plates separated by lines known as “sutures.” Over time, the brain grows and the plates expand, and as the rate of growth slows, the futures start to fill in and fuse, until the skull becomes solid. This design gives the head room to grow over time.
In craniosynostosis, one of more of the sutures starts to fuse too early. Because the brain is still growing, the skull starts to develop a deformed shape as the brain pushes out where it can. Scaphocephaly is one of the most common conditions caused by craniosynostosis. In this condition, the sagittal suture of the skull closes too soon. The treatment is surgery to pull the suture apart again so that the skull will develop more evenly.
Positional scaphocephaly is classically caused by the pressure put on an infant's skull in the crib. If babies spend too much time in one position, their skulls can become deformed. This condition is treated by wearing a helmet or headband which redistributes the pressure, training the skull back into shape. If the scaphocephaly is in its early stages, parents may simply be encouraged to vary the child's position in the crib, using padding to reduce pressure, to see if that addresses the issue.
This condition is usually identified by a pediatrician within a child's first year of life. Doctors look for signs of cranial deformities by observing a child's development, and taking measurements to see if the dimensions of the head fall within expected norms. If signs of scaphocephaly are observed, testing may be recommended to determine the cause, so that an appropriate treatment plan can be developed. Treating the condition is important not just for aesthetic reasons, but because scaphocephaly can interfere with brain development, causing neurological problems later in life.