Craniofacial surgery is a surgical sub-specialty of plastic surgery that addresses both hereditary and acquired deformities of the neck, face, skull, and jaw – as well as the soft tissues that surround these regions. According to the American Society of Craniofacial Surgeons, some of the first procedures in this field were introduced by Dr. Paul Tessier, a French surgeon who spread word about cutting-edge techniques for treating unusual birth defects. Since then, many great strides have been made in the field, and research and teaching have led to wonderful discoveries for treating deformities.
Selecting a reputable surgeon is always of great concern; however, surgeons who practice in this field will have undergone numerous years of secondary schooling beyond traditional surgery. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree and graduating from medical school, these physicians must go through rigorous residencies, followed by a fellowship focusing on skull malformations. This is proof positive of how delicate these conditions are, and the level of care they require.
Craniofacial conditions fall into two major categories: craniosynostosis-related and cleft deformities. Craniosynostosis is a rare, but dire condition that occurs when one or more of the fibrous skull joints, called sutures, prematurely fuse turning into bone. A number of procedures have been developed to address this condition – which affects one in 2,000 live births.
The Atlantic Center of Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery is one of the few facilities in the country performing Endoscopic Craniosynostosis repair; this modern & minimally-invasive technique is used as a solution for several types of craniosynostosis. Unlike its traditional counterparts, this surgical method eliminates the need for metal plates and screws – and as a result, causes far less scarring, reduces the risk of infection or allergies, and is generally less painful. Additionally, it causes less blood loss, so blood transfusion can typically be sidestepped.
If the patient is older than 5 months, spring-assisted skull reconstruction is a possible course of treatment. Used to treat sagittal craniosynostosis, or scaphocephaly – a skull malformation that causes the head to grow long and narrow, this procedure involves the placement of tiny springs that gradually expand as a child grows. Once a meaningful correction has been made, they are removed. The main caveat to this procedure is the need for a 2nd surgery to remove the springs. Both endoscopic craniosynostosis repair and spring-assisted skull reconstruction are promising alternatives to open craniofacial repairs. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, they are both most effective when the patient is at a younger age.
Skull distraction, or Distraction Osteogenesis (DO), is a slightly more invasive procedure that is successful at elongating the bones of the skull. Harnessing the body’s unique ability to grow bones, DO involves making tiny cuts in the skull’s bones, and bridging them with devices called cranial “distractors” – hardware pieces that gradually separate the bones over time. This process acts as the catalyst for new bone generation.
If your child is suffering from a skull malformation, it’s time for a visit to the craniomaxillofacial experts at Atlantic Center of Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery. This ground-breaking facility was founded by Dr. Eric Stelnicki, a board-certified and fellowship-trained surgeon specializing in pediatric and craniofacial plastic surgery. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 954-983-1899.