State-of-the Art Endoscopic Surgery for Infants with Cranial Abnormality Available at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital
June 2004 — Approximately 1 in 3,000 babies is born with craniosynostosis, a birth defect that causes the soft spot in a baby's skull to close prematurely. Left untreated, this condition causes deformation of the skull, and can gradually cause facial distortion, mental retardation, seizures and even blindness.
Eric Stelnicki, MD, cranio-facial plastic surgeon on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, developed a specialized set of endoscopic instruments that enables surgeons to reshape a child's skull through small incisions only a few centimeters in length. Performed on children 4 months old or younger, this procedure offers significant advantages over traditional surgical techniques.
Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital is one of only a few hospitals in the country performing minimally invasive, endoscopic surgery for craniosynotosis.
New Tools, Greater Advantages
The traditional technique known as cranial vault reconstruction is still performed to correct craniosynostosis in older children. Doctors would make a large, ear-to-ear incision, remove sections of the child's skull, cut them apart and reattach them with screws or plates to hold the bone in place after surgery. The operation could take up to 8 hours and typically required blood transfusions and at least a 4- to 5-day hospital stay.
"With these new tools, we're able to correct this condition with a smaller incision, less swelling, less operating time and anesthesia, a shorter hospital stay and less blood loss," says Drew Schnitt, MD, cranio-facial plastic surgeon on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Memorial Regional Hospital and Memorial Hospital West, who helped develop the revolutionary instruments. "Immediately after the surgery, significant improvement can be seen. Shortly thereafter, babies are fitted for a molding helmet to normalize skull shape during the next 6 to 8 months."
"While this particular procedure must be performed on children 4 months or younger, we're in the process of designing instruments that can be used on older children," says Dr. Schnitt. "We're hopeful that these will be available in the near future. In the meantime, parents and pediatricians are the first line of defense in identifying craniosynostosis in babies. A changing, abnormal head shape is a key identifier, and changes can take place in only a few months."
If you are concerned about craniosynostosis or any type of cranial abnormality, see your pediatrician. For referral to a pediatrician, call the Memorial Physician Referral Service at (800) 944-DOCS.