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  • Author or Editor: Rafael A. Vega x
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Rafael A. Vega, Charles Opalak, Raymond J. Harshbarger, Jeffrey A. Fearon, Ann M. Ritter, John J. Collins and Jennifer L. Rhodes


This study examines a series of patients with hypophosphatemic rickets and craniosynostosis to characterize the clinical course and associated craniofacial anomalies.


A 20-year retrospective review identified patients with hypophosphatemic rickets and secondary craniosynostosis at 3 major craniofacial centers. Parameters examined included sex, age at diagnosis of head shape anomaly, affected sutures, etiology of rickets, presenting symptoms, number and type of surgical interventions, and associated diagnoses. A review of the literature was performed to optimize treatment recommendations.


Ten patients were identified (8 males, 2 females). Age at presentation ranged from 1 to 9 years. The most commonly affected suture was the sagittal (6/10 patients). Etiologies included antacid-induced rickets, autosomal dominant hypophosphatemic rickets, and X-linked hypophosphatemic (XLH) rickets. Nine patients had undergone at least 1 cranial vault remodeling (CVR) surgery. Three patients underwent subsequent surgeries in later years. Four patients underwent formal intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring, 3 of which revealed elevated ICP. Three patients were diagnosed with a Chiari Type I malformation.


Secondary craniosynostosis develops postnatally due to metabolic or mechanical factors. The most common metabolic cause is hypophosphatemic rickets, which has a variety of etiologies. Head shape changes occur later and with a more heterogeneous presentation compared with that of primary craniosynostosis. CVR may be required to prevent or relieve elevated ICP and abnormalities of the cranial vault. Children with hypophosphatemic rickets who develop head shape abnormalities should be promptly referred to a craniofacial specialist.

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Garrett N. Cyprus, Jefferson W. Overlin, Rafael A. Vega, Ann M. Ritter and René Olivares-Navarrete


Cranial suture patterning and development are highly regulated processes that are not entirely understood. While studies have investigated the differential gene expression for different sutures, little is known about gene expression changes during suture fusion. The aim of this study was to examine gene expression in patent, fusing, and fused regions along sagittal suture specimens in nonsyndromic craniosynostosis patients.


Sagittal sutures were collected from 7 patients (average age 4.5 months) who underwent minimally invasive craniotomies at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU under IRB approval. The sutures were analyzed using micro-CT to evaluate patency. The areas were classified as open, fusing, or fused and were harvested, and mRNA was isolated. Gene expression for bone-related proteins, osteogenic and angiogenic factors, transforming growth factor–β (TGF-β) superfamily, and Wnt signaling was analyzed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction and compared with normal sutures collected from fetal demise tissue (control).


Micro-CT demonstrated that there are variable areas of closure along the length of the sagittal suture. When comparing control samples to surgical samples, there was a significant difference in genes for Wnt signaling, TGF-β, angiogenic and osteogenic factors, bone remodeling, and nuclear rigidity in mRNA isolated from the fusing and fused areas of the sagittal suture compared with patent areas (p < 0.05).


In nonsyndromic sagittal craniosynostosis, the affected suture has variable areas of being open, fusing, and fused. These specific areas have different mRNA expression. The results suggest that BMP-2, FGFR3, and several other signaling pathways play a significant role in the regulation of suture fusion as well as in the maintenance of patency in the normal suture.

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Rafael A. Vega, Camila Lyon, Jeannette F. Kierce, Gary W. Tye, Ann M. Ritter and Jennifer L. Rhodes


Children with craniosynostosis may require cranial vault remodeling to prevent or relieve elevated intracranial pressure and to correct the underlying craniofacial abnormalities. The procedure is typically associated with significant blood loss and high transfusion rates. The risks associated with transfusions are well documented and include transmission of infectious agents, bacterial contamination, acute hemolytic reactions, transfusion-related lung injury, and transfusion-related immune modulation. This study presents the Children's Hospital of Richmond (CHoR) protocol, which was developed to reduce the rate of blood transfusion in infants undergoing primary craniosynostosis repair.


A retrospective chart review of pediatric patients treated between January 2003 and Febuary 2012 was performed. The CHoR protocol was instituted in November 2008, with the following 3 components; 1) the use of preoperative erythropoietin and iron therapy, 2) the use of an intraoperative blood recycling device, and 3) acceptance of a lower level of hemoglobin as a trigger for transfusion (< 7 g/dl). Patients who underwent surgery prior to the protocol implementation served as controls.


A total of 60 children were included in the study, 32 of whom were treated with the CHoR protocol. The control (C) and protocol (P) groups were comparable with respect to patient age (7 vs 8.4 months, p = 0.145). Recombinant erythropoietin effectively raised the mean preoperative hemoglobin level in the P group (12 vs 9.7 g/dl, p < 0.001). Although adoption of more aggressive surgical vault remodeling in 2008 resulted in a higher estimated blood loss (212 vs 114.5 ml, p = 0.004) and length of surgery (4 vs 2.8 hours, p < 0.001), transfusion was performed in significantly fewer cases in the P group (56% vs 96%, p < 0.001). The mean length of stay in the hospital was shorter for the P group (2.6 vs 3.4 days, p < 0.001).


A protocol that includes preoperative administration of recombinant erythropoietin, intraoperative autologous blood recycling, and accepting a lower transfusion trigger significantly decreased transfusion utilization (p < 0.001). A decreased length of stay (p < 0.001) was seen, although the authors did not investigate whether composite transfusion complication reductions led to better outcomes.