What should I expect after craniosynostosis surgery?
What should I expect during my child's craniosynostosis surgery recovery?
Immediately following craniosynostosis surgery your child will be cared for in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Laboratory tests will be performed to ensure that blood levels and electrolyte levels remain normal following surgery.
Your child will receive intravenous (IV) fluids immediately following surgery, which will keep your child hydrated until they are able to resume eating and drinking on their own.
A headwrap may be placed at the time of your child's operation and is typically removed in the first 1-2 days after surgery. The surgical drain will be removed in the first 2-3 days after surgery. Antibiotic ointment is typically applied to the scalp incision line for 7-10 days; thereafter, the incision line can be kept clean with soap and water.
Swelling following surgery can be substantial depending on the type of craniosynostosis surgery performed. Your child's eyes may swell shut which is a normal part of the healing process following craniosynostosis surgery and will resolve in 2-3 days.
Once your child has recovered from the initial surgery, they may be transferred out of the ICU to a regular floor unit for additional monitoring. Your child will remain in the hospital until they are able to eat and drink enough on their own to stay hydrated, have their pain controlled with oral medication and have at least one eye open if their eyes were previously swollen shut.
When your child is ready to be discharged home, they should return to their normal routine. Keeping your child's head elevated while sleeping in their crib or having them sleep in their car seat will help reduce swelling. Be sure to ask your plastic surgeon and neurosurgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your child's individual recovery period.
- Where will my child be cared for immediately following surgery?
- What medication will they be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will my child have surgical drains after surgery?
- When will they be removed?
- When can I bathe my child, and how should this be done?
- What are the signs and symptoms to monitor for after surgery?
- Does my child need a helmet after surgery and if so, how frequently must it be worn?
- When will my child have a follow-up after surgery?
- Are there additional procedures that will be required after surgery and if so when will they be performed?
What results should I expect after craniosynostosis surgery?
The immediate results of craniosynostosis surgery will depend on the type of surgery performed. With open craniosynostosis procedures, the fused sutures are released, and the skull bones are repositioned to create a more typical head shape. The results of open procedures will be immediately apparent with a significant change in your child's head shape from before to after surgery.
Strip craniectomy surgery will release the fused suture but will rely on the use of a custom helmet after surgery to improve your child's head shape over time. Spring-assisted craniectomy surgery will also not result in significant change in your child's head shape immediately following surgery and may require the use of helmet therapy after removal of the spring to help redirect skull growth to a more typical pattern.
Immediately after surgery, there may be significant swelling of the head which will mostly resolve within the first few days to weeks after surgery. Complete resolution of swelling may take several months.
Your child may have slight irregularities or soft spots on their head following craniosynostosis surgery. These areas will improve over time as the bones of the skull remodel and heal.
Although good results are expected from your procedure, there is a chance your child may require additional surgeries in the future. If your child demonstrates repeat signs of increased intracranial pressure, then additional craniosynostosis surgery may be required. Some patients with persistent skull defects from incomplete bone healing may require revisionary surgery depending on the location and size of the defect.
Following craniosynostosis surgery, your child will be followed regularly by your craniofacial surgeon or craniofacial team to monitor their immediate recovery and continued growth and development.