Making the diagnosis: metopic ridge versus metopic craniosynostosis

J Craniofac Surg. 2013 Jan;24(1):178-85. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0b013e31826683d1.


Introduction: The metopic suture is the only calvarial suture which normally closes during infancy. Upon closure, a palpable and visible ridge often forms which can be confused with metopic craniosynostosis. Metopic ridging (MR) is treated nonsurgically while metopic craniosynostosis (MCS) is treated surgically. Differentiating between the two is paramount; however, consensus is lacking about where a clear diagnostic threshold lies. The goal of this study is to describe the physical examination and CT scan characteristics which may help to differentiate between physiological closure of the metopic suture with ridging (MR) and MCS.

Methods: A retrospective chart review of all patients seen at Seattle Children's Hospital between 2004 and 2009 with the diagnosis of either MCS or MR (n = 282) was performed. Physical examination characteristics described by diagnosing practitioners were analyzed. Clinical photos were assessed by 3 expert raters to determine the importance of these characteristics. CT scan findings were abstracted and compared between the two diagnoses.

Results: The "classic" triad of narrow forehead, biparietal widening, and hypotelorism was present in only 14% of patients with MCS. Ninety-eight percent of patients in both groups had a palpable metopic ridge. The photographic finding of narrow forehead and pterional constriction was present in all patients with MCS, but only in 11.2% and 2.8% of patients with MR. On CT scan, the presence of 3 or more MCS findings was diagnostic of MCS in 96% of patients. Patients with MCS were more likely to present before 6 months of age (66% vs. 32%).

Conclusions: Patients with MCS tend to present earlier than those with MR. Upon physical examination, the relationship between the lateral frontal bone and the lateral orbit is important in distinguishing between the two diagnoses. A CT scan can be helpful in making the diagnosis not to confirm a closed suture but to identify 3 or more MCS characteristics.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cranial Sutures / physiology*
  • Craniosynostoses / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Physical Examination
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed

Supplementary concepts

  • Trigonocephaly, Nonsyndromic