Complex craniosynostosis

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011 Oct;128(4):955-961. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3182268ca6.


Background: Complex craniosynostoses (i.e., multisutural, nonsyndromic) are rare and present unique treatment challenges. The authors sought to assess long-term outcomes, including postsurgical growth and development, to develop evidence-based treatment algorithms.

Methods: A retrospective review of all patients identified as having multiple sutural synostosis excluding bicoronal and FGFR- and TWIST-associated synostoses was conducted. Data were summarized using descriptive statistics.

Results: Over an 18-year period, 858 patients underwent craniosynostosis correction, and 31 patients (3.6 percent) satisfied inclusion criteria. Average number of affected sutures was 2.9 (lambdoid, 36 percent; sagittal, 31 percent; coronal, 18 percent; metopic, 15 percent), and 1.7 procedures were performed per patient (mean follow-up, 3.5 years). Average hospital stay was 2.3 days, 21 percent required blood transfusions, and there were no major complications. For synostosis patterns isolated to one side of the anterior sagittal suture (anterior or posterior skull halves), 93 percent were corrected with a single procedure. When the synostosis pattern crossed both skull halves, 80 percent underwent two procedures (p<0.001). Forty percent developed acquired Chiari deformations; of these, 60 percent required decompression. The incidence of Chiari deformations increased from 7 percent to 70 percent with lambdoid sutural involvement (p<0.002). Anthropometric data revealed postoperative growth impairment. Gross developmental delays were noted in 20 percent (mild, 16 percent; moderate to severe, 4 percent).

Conclusions: Complex craniosynostoses are associated with a higher incidence of acquired Chiari deformations (especially with lambdoid involvement), require multiple operative procedures, and may have more developmental delays than the isolated single sutural synostoses. The authors recommend surgical paradigms based on sutural involvement, compensatory surgical overcorrection, and routine magnetic resonance imaging monitoring for Chiari deformations.

Clinical question/level of evidence: Therapeutic, IV.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Cranial Sutures / physiopathology
  • Cranial Sutures / surgery
  • Craniosynostoses / diagnosis*
  • Craniosynostoses / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skull / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome