Avoiding CT scans in children with single-suture craniosynostosis

Childs Nerv Syst. 2012 Jul;28(7):1077-82. doi: 10.1007/s00381-012-1721-0. Epub 2012 Feb 19.


Introduction: During the last decades, computed tomography (CT) has become the predominant imaging technique in the diagnosis of craniosynostosis. In most craniofacial centers, at least one three-dimensional (3D) computed tomographic scan is obtained in every case of suspected craniosynostosis. However, with regard to the risk of radiation exposure particularly in young infants, CT scanning and even plain radiography should be indicated extremely carefully.

Material and methods: Our current diagnostic protocol in the management of single-suture craniosynostosis is mainly based on careful clinical examination with regard to severity and degree of the abnormality and on ophthalmoscopic surveillance. Imaging techniques consist of ultrasound examination in young infants while routine plain radiographs are usually postponed to the date of surgery or the end of the first year. CT and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are confined to special diagnostic problems rarely encountered in isolated craniosynostosis. The results of this approach were evaluated retrospectively in 137 infants who were referred to our outpatient clinic for evaluation and/or treatment of suspected single suture craniosynostosis or positional deformity during a 2-year period (2008-2009).

Results: In 133 (97.1%) of the 137 infants, the diagnosis of single-suture craniosynostosis (n = 110) or positional plagiocephaly (n = 27) was achieved through clinical analysis only. Two further cases were classified by ultrasound, while the remaining two cases needed additional digital radiographs. In no case was CT scanning retrospectively considered necessary for establishing the diagnosis. Yet in 17.6% of cases, a cranial CT scan had already been performed elsewhere (n = 16) or had been definitely scheduled (n = 8).

Conclusion: CT scanning is rarely necessary for evaluation of single-suture craniosynostosis. Taking into account that there is a quantifiable risk of developing cancer in further lifetime, every single CT scan should be carefully indicated.

MeSH terms

  • Cranial Sutures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cranial Sutures / surgery
  • Craniosynostoses / diagnostic imaging*
  • Craniosynostoses / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Plagiocephaly, Nonsynostotic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Plagiocephaly, Nonsynostotic / surgery
  • Sutures
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*