Pediatric Cranioplasty Overview
Cranioplasty is the surgical correction of skull deformities or defects. Your child’s condition may be present at birth, or a result of trauma or a previous skull surgery. At MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Cranioplasty team, we offer surgical treatment for complex problems of the skull. Our multidisciplinary team of neuro-, plastic, craniofacial, and microvascular surgeons work together to achieve the best possible result for your child.
Depending on the type and severity of your child’s condition, our treatment strategy will differ. Examples of the conditions we treat include:
- Abnormal head shape: If your child’s head has an irregular or asymmetric appearance that is noticeable, such as at the forehead or temples, our team can help restore a normal shape to the head and face.
- Missing bone: If the brain swells due to an accident or condition, part of your child’s skull may need to be removed to allow the brain to expand. Once it is replaced, you may notice a deformity. Our team can replace the bone with bone grafts or a cranial implant and restore soft tissue using microvascular or plastic surgical techniques.
- Temporal hollowing: After a neurosurgical operation, the muscle in the area of the temple may atrophy or disappear. This can cause a hollowed-out look in your child’s temple. Our team can reconstruct the muscle and minimize the deformity.
Planning and Recovery
What to Expect
You will first need to schedule an appointment with one of our cranioplasty specialists. The surgeon will examine your child’s skull and ask questions to determine if he or she is a candidate for a cranioplasty procedure. If surgery is recommended, you will discuss risks and potential complications of surgery and what will happen during surgery. You will receive directions on what to do to prepare your child for surgery.
During surgery, one or more surgical techniques may be used to address your child’s condition. These may include:
- Bone cement or hydroxyapatite. This may be used to smooth irregularities and fill creases of the skull.
- Autologous cranioplasty. Your child’s own bone is used to restore the normal shape of the head. This bone may be taken from the skull itself, the ribs, or the hip.
- Implants. If your child needs a large amount of skull bone replaced, an implant may be used. These implants are created before surgery using a CT scan of your child’s head.
- Microvascular surgery. The surgeon brings healthy tissue from a different part of the body, places it on the affected area of the head, and connects the arteries and veins from the transplanted tissue to the existing head tissue.
If you have any additional questions regarding these procedures, please ask your child’s surgeon.
Recovery from Head Surgery
Most pediatric cranioplasty patients spend two to three days in our hospital after surgery. After examining your child, the care team will determine if he or she is ready to go home. It may take around a month or two for swelling and numbness to subside. You will be given instructions and a timeline for your child’s recovery by the surgical care team.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Your child’s cranioplasty procedure may be covered by insurance if it is deemed medically necessary. Please contact your insurance company to determine coverage.
If you’re exploring options for insurance coverage, you may need to request a referral from your primary care doctor, depending on your health insurance plan. Check with your carrier to see if medical coverage is an option for you and, if so, whether a referral is required.
Pediatric cranioplasty, as with all surgeries, carries certain risks: