Scaphocephaly, also called dolichocephaly, is a congenital birth defect characterized by an asymmetrical distortion or shape of the head. Scaphocephaly occurs frequently in premature infants. Cases of scaphocephaly starting in utero can be the result of a few factors including:
- the position of the baby's head during pregnancy
- the carrying of multiples (twins, triplets) where there is less space for each baby to grow and often times the heads are forced against the mothers pelvis or ribs for an extended time
- a small or misshapen uterus
- complications during delivery
Scaphocephaly's main cause is a result of external forces, it is due to pressure on the sides of the skull in the first months after birth. It is commonly seen in infants that spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit(NICU). Side lying positioning is common in the NICU to provide easy access to monitors.
When scaphocephaly's main cause is from internal forces, it is called sagittal synostosis. Sagittal synostosis results from the premature fusion of the sagittal suture, the suture that runs anteroposterior along the top of the head. When the sagittal suture prematurely closes, it does not allow for normal growth of the head. Thus, growth will be limited transversely and the head will grow longer anteroposteriorly yet remain narrow. It is the most common form of synostosis, with statistics ranging from 1 in 2000 to 1 in 5000 births.