Saving a Baby's Brain from Craniosynostosis

FRESNO, Calif.

Eat, cry, play, sleep...repeat! It's the life of all babies, and Dylan's mom is thankful for every repetitive moment. It's hard to believe just six months ago, Dylan had a part of his skull removed.

"It looked like a triangle on his forehead, like a football-shaped head. It was like a very thick stripe almost," Megan Vandevrede, Dylan's mom, told Action News.

It's called craniosynostosis, and it impacts one in every 3,000 babies, causing the bones of an infant's skull to close prematurely -- literally squeezing the baby's brain before it's fully formed. Luckily for Dylan, he was diagnosed at 8 weeks old -- the perfect age for a new procedure to work.

"Typically, for most, you'd wait till they're 6 to 9 months old, when the skull bones are a little bit more rigid, and you would do a major surgery," Richard C. E. Anderson, M.D., Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, told Action News.

Traditional surgery takes up to eight hours. Surgeons have to open the entire skull, break the bones and remold them -- leaving a scar from ear to ear. Now, doctors make a tiny incision at the top of the skull, where they insert a camera to locate and remove the bone that's keeping the skull from growing. Eventually, the skull will heal itself.

"Given all of the advantages, there's no question in my mind, it's the right way to go," Dr. Anderson told Action News.

One downside is the babies have to wear a helmet for up to one year to help guide the shape of the skull.

"He is so happy," Megan told Action News.

Dylan's head is shaping up, and now, he's as healthy as can be.

The signs of craniosynostosis may be hard to notice at birth, but they will become more visible during the first few months of life. Talk to your doctor if you see signs of a mis-shapened skull. If the baby isn't diagnosed by 6 months of age, doctors will have to perform the more invasive, traditional surgery.

Liz Asani/ Public Relations
St. Joseph's Healthcare System
(973) 754-4500

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