OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology
The premature closure (fusion) of a suture line is a condition called craniosynostosis. This error in the normal developmental process results in abnormal growth of the skull and deformity of the head. It is produced either by defects in the ossification process of the skull bones or failure of the brain to properly enlarge. Genetic factors are involved, but the underlying cause is unknown. It is a relatively common condition, occurring in approximately 1:2000 births, with males being more commonly affected. Primary craniosynostosis involves the early fusion of one cranial suture, whereas complex craniosynostosis results from the premature fusion of several sutures.
The early fusion of a suture in primary craniosynostosis prevents any additional enlargement of the cranial bones and skull along this line. Continued growth of the brain and skull is therefore diverted to other areas of the head, causing an abnormal enlargement of these regions. For example, the early disappearance of the anterior fontanelle and premature closure of the sagittal suture prevents growth across the top of the head. This is compensated by upward growth by the bones of the lateral skull, resulting in a long, narrow, wedge-shaped head. This condition, known as scaphocephaly, accounts for approximately 50 percent of craniosynostosis abnormalities. Although the skull is misshapen, the brain still has adequate room to grow and thus there is no accompanying abnormal neurological development.
In cases of complex craniosynostosis, several sutures close prematurely. The amount and degree of skull deformity is determined by the location and extent of the sutures involved. This results in more severe constraints on skull growth, which can alter or impede proper brain growth and development.
Cases of craniosynostosis are usually treated with surgery. A team of physicians will open the skull along the fused suture, which will then allow the skull bones to resume their growth in this area. In some cases, parts of the skull will be removed and replaced with an artificial plate. The earlier after birth that surgery is performed, the better the outcome. After treatment, most children continue to grow and develop normally and do not exhibit any neurological problems.
Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., … DeSaix, P. (n.d.). Anatomy and Physiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/anatomy-and-physiology