Surgical treatment of isolated and syndromic craniosynostosis. Results and complications in 283 consecutive cases

Neurocirugia (Astur). 2008 Dec;19(6):509-29. doi: 10.1016/s1130-1473(08)70201-x.


Objective: To review the results and complications of the surgical treatment of craniosynostosis in 283 consecutive patients treated between 1999 and 2007.

Patients and methods: Our series consisted of 330 procedures performed in 283 patients diagnosed with scaphocephaly (n=155), trigonocephaly (n=50), anterior plagiocephaly (n=28), occipital plagiocephaly (n=1), non-syndromic multi-suture synostosis (n=20), and with diverse craniofacial syndromes (n=32; 11 Crouzon, 11 Apert, 7 Pfeiffer, 2 Saethre-Chotzen, and 2 clover-leaf skull). We used the classification of Whitaker et al. to evaluate the surgical results. Complications of each technique and time of patients' hospitalization were also recorded. The surgeries were classified in 12 different types according to the techniques used. Type I comprised endoscopic assisted osteotomies for sagittal synostosis (42 cases). Type II included sagittal suturectomy and expanding osteotomies (46 cases). Type III encompassed procedures similar to type II but that included frontal dismantling or frontal osteotomies in scaphocephaly (59 cases). Type IV referred to complete cranial vault remodelling (holocranial dismantling) in scaphocephaly (13 cases). Type V belonged to fronto-orbital remodelling without fronto-orbital bandeau in trigonocephaly (50 cases). Type VI included fronto-orbital remodelling without fronto-orbital bandeau in plagiocephaly (14 cases). In Type VII cases of plagiocephaly with frontoorbital remodelling and fronto-orbital bandeau were comprised (14 cases). Type VIII consisted of occipital advancement in posterior plagiocephaly (1 case). Type IX included standard bilateral fronto-orbital advancement with expanding osteotomies (30 cases). Type X was used in multi-suture craniosynostosis (15 cases) and consisted of holocranial dismantling (complete cranial vault remodelling). Type XI included occipital and suboccipital craniectomies in multiple suture craniosynostosis (10 cases) and Type XII instances of fronto-orbital distraction (26 cases).

Results: The mortality rate of the series was 2 out of 283 cases (0.7%). These 2 patients died one year after surgery. All complications were resolved without permanent deficit. Mean age at surgery was 6.75 months. According to Whitaker et al's classification, 191 patients were classified into Category I (67.49%), 51 into Category II (18.02%), 30 into Category III (10.6%) and 14 into Category IV (4.90%). Regarding to craniofacial conformation, 85.5 % of patients were considered as a good result and 15.5% of patients as a poor result. Of the patients with poor results, 6.36% were craniofacial syndromes, 2.12% had anterior plagiocephaly and 1.76% belonged to non-syndromic craniosynostosis. The most frequent complication was postoperative hyperthermia of undetermined origin (13.43% of the cases), followed by infection (7.5%), subcutaneous haematoma (5.3%), dural tears (5%), and CSF leakage (2.5%). The number of complications was higher in the group of re-operated patients (12.8% of all). In this subset of reoperations, infection accounted for 62.5%, dural tears for 93% and CSF leaks for 75% of the total. In regard to the surgical procedures, endoscopic assisted osteotomies presented the lowest rate of complications, followed by standard fronto-orbital advancement in multiple synostosis, trigonocephaly and plagiocephaly. The highest number of complications occurred in complete cranial vault remodelling (holocranial dismantling) in scaphocephaly and multiple synostoses and after the use of internal osteogenic distractors. Of note, are two cases of iatrogenic basal encephalocele that occurred after combined fronto-facial distraction.

Conclusions: The best results were obtained in patients with isolated craniosynostosis and the worst in cases with syndromic and multi-suture craniosynostosis. The rate and severity of complications were related to the type of surgical procedure and was higher among patients undergoing re-operations. The mean time of hospitalization was also modified by these factors. Finally, we report our considerations for the management of craniosynostosis taking into account each specific technique and the age at surgery, complication rates and the results of the whole series.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniosynostoses / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / adverse effects
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Syndrome