Craniosynostosis is a rare condition where a baby's skull does not grow properly and their head becomes an unusual shape. It does not always need to be treated, but may need surgery in some cases.

Is my baby's head a normal shape?

Babies' heads come in all shapes and sizes. It's normal for their head to be a slightly unusual shape. It will often get better as they grow.

But your baby may have a problem like craniosynostosis if:

If the problem is mild, it may not be noticeable until your child is older.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you're worried about the shape of your baby's or child's head

They can check if it could be craniosynostosis or a common problem in babies called flat head syndrome. This is not serious and usually gets better by itself.

Ask for an urgent appointment if your child also has:

  • constant headaches
  • problems with their vision – like blurred or double vision
  • a decline in their school performance

These problems can occur in young children with mild craniosynostosis if their skull puts pressure on their brain.

What happens at your GP appointment

The GP will examine your child's head. They may also take some measurements to see if it's an unusual size for your child's age.

If they think it could be craniosynostosis, they may refer you to a specialist centre for more tests, like X-rays or scans.


There are 4 specialist NHS centres for craniosynostosis:

  • Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool
  • Birmingham Children's Hospital
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital in London
  • John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford

Staff at the centre can check if your child does have craniosynostosis, what type it is and if it might need to be treated.

Types of craniosynostosis
Table describing 5 different types of craniosynostosis and how they affect the head
Type What it means
Sagittal synostosis affects the top of the head, causing it to become long and narrow
Coronal synostosis affects the side of the head, causing the forehead to be flattened on one side
Metopic synostosis affects the forehead, causing it to become pointy or triangular
Lambdoid synostosis affects the back of the head, causing it to become flattened on 1 side
Syndromic synostosis affects more than 1 part of the head and can affect other parts of the body; caused by an underlying genetic condition (syndrome)

The charity Headlines has more information about the main syndromes linked to syndromic synostosis.

Treatment for craniosynostosis

Craniosynostosis does not always need to be treated. Your child may just have regular check-ups to monitor it.

Surgery may be recommended if:

Surgery usually involves making a cut across the top of your child's head, removing and reshaping the affected parts of their skull, and then fixing them back in place.

It's done under general anaesthetic (they're asleep). Your child may need to stay in hospital for up to a week afterwards.

Long-lasting effects of craniosynostosis

Most children do not have any lasting health problems. They may have a scar across the top of their head if they had surgery, but this will be hidden by their hair.

Your child will have regular check-ups to see how they're doing. These may be every few weeks at first but will become less frequent as they get older.

If your child has certain types of craniosynostosis, surgery cannot always fully correct the shape of their head and they may need ongoing care.


The charity Headlines can provide more information and support for people with craniosynostosis and their families.

Page last reviewed: 31 December 2020
Next review due: 30 December 2023