Last updated: January 21, 2022

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Craniosynostosis (CS) is the premature fusion of one or more cranial sutures. It is caused by a mutation in genes that code for fibroblast growth factor. Most affected infants are asymptomatic; CS is usually recognized based on an abnormal head shape in the first year of life. The shape of the skull is determined by which suture is prematurely fused, of which the sagittal suture (scaphocephaly) is the most commonly affected. When multiple sutures are involved, CS may cause hydrocephalus and/or cerebral constriction. Diagnosis is clinical, with skull x-ray and CT scan helping to assess the extent of fusion. Surgery is recommended in all infants for cosmetic reasons and to treat/prevent intracranial complications.

Epidemiologytoggle arrow icon


Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Etiologytoggle arrow icon


Pathophysiologytoggle arrow icon


Clinical featurestoggle arrow icon

  • Usually asymptomatic
  • Recognized as an abnormal head shape within the first year of life
Skull deformity due to premature fusion Suture/s involved Features


(sagittal synostosis)

  • Most common type of CS (∼ 45%)
  • Long, narrow skull (boat-shaped)

Anterior plagiocephaly

(unilateral coronal synostosis)

  • Unilateral coronal suture
  • 2nd most common type of CS
  • Laterally twisted/oblique skull and face

Posterior plagiocephaly

(unilateral lambdoid synostosis)

  • Unilateral lambdoid suture
  • Rare type of CS
  • Twisted/oblique skull
  • Occipitoparietal flattening on the affected side
  • Low-set ears on the affected side
  • Metopic suture
  • Common type of CS (∼ 25% of cases)
  • Triangular shaped head
  • Prominent occiput and parietal eminences
  • Close-set eyes (hypotelorism)
  • Bilateral coronal sutures
  • Short, broad, flattened skull



  • Bilateral coronal sutures (if left untreated)
  • Long skull (increased craniocaudal dimension)

Cloverleaf skull

  • Multiple cranial sutures (esp. the metopic, coronal, and lambdoid sutures)


Diagnosticstoggle arrow icon


Differential diagnosestoggle arrow icon

The following conditions show patency of sutures similar to craniosynostosis on skull x-ray or ultrasound:


The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.

Treatmenttoggle arrow icon

  • Surgery: indicated in all patients either to minimize cerebral constriction or for cosmetic reasons
    • Strip craniectomy or cranial vault remodeling
    • Timing: controversial; mostly recommended at 3–9 months of age


Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. Buchanan EP, Hollier LH. Overview of Craniosynostosis. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. Last updated: April 11, 2017. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  2. Kabbani H, Raghuveer TS. Craniosynostosis. Am Fam Physician. 2004; 69 (12): p.2863-2870.
  3. Warren SM, Longaker MT. The Pathogenesis of Craniosynostosis in the Fetus. Yonsei Medical Journal. 2001; 42 (6): p.646-659.
  4. Chim H, Manjila S, Cohen AR, Gosain AK. Molecular signaling in pathogenesis of craniosynostosis: the role of fibroblast growth factor and transforming growth factor–β. Neurosurgical Focus. 2011; 31 (2): p.E7.
  5. Anatomy of the Newborn Skull. Updated: January 1, 2017. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  6. Garza RM, Khosla RK. Nonsyndromic craniosynostosis. Semin Plast Surg. 2012; 26 (2): p.53-63.doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1320063 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  7. Manjila S, Chim S, Eisele S, Chowdhry SA, Gosain AK, Cohen AR. History of the Kleeblattschädel deformity: origin of concepts and evolution of management in the past 50 years. Neurosurg Focus. 2010; 29 (6): p.E7.doi: 10.3171/2010.9.FOCUS10212 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  8. Hollier LH. Craniosynostosis syndromes. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. Last updated: August 18, 2016. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  9. Johnson D, Wilkie AOM. Craniosynostosis. Eur J Hum Genet. 2011; 19 (4): p.369-376.doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2010.235 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  10. Cloverleaf Skull. Updated: January 1, 2017. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  11. Esmaeli A, Nejat F, Habibi Z, Khashab ME. Secondary bicoronal synostosis after metopic craniosynostosis surgical reconstruction. J Pediatr Neurosci. 2014; 9 (3): p.242-245.doi: 10.4103/1817-1745.147578 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  12. Koletzko B. Kinder- und Jugendmedizin. Springer Verlag (2007) ; 2007
  13. Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, Geme JS, Schor NF, Behrman RE. Nelson Textbook of pediatrics. Elsevier (2011) ; 2011

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 Evidence-based content, created and peer-reviewed by physicians. Read the disclaimer