Craniosynostosis represents the second most common reason for referral to pediatric neurosurgery. However, the quality of life and neurodevelopmental impact of leaving this physical disorder uncorrected is poorly understood.
This multicenter cross-sectional study identified previously managed nonsyndromic infants (< 24 months of age) with single-suture craniosynostosis at both pediatric neurosurgical centers in Alberta, Canada. The primary variable of interest was the allocated treatment (surgical vs conservative). The primary outcome was the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL), a validated measure of quality of life examining physical, emotional, social, and school functioning. Treatment decision satisfaction and the reasons for selected management were quantified and collected directly from caregivers.
One hundred fourteen children met the inclusion criteria: 78% underwent surgery and 22% had conservative treatment. The most common suture affected was sagittal (54%), followed by metopic (33%), coronal (10%), and lambdoid (3%). Caregivers most commonly opted for surgery because of severe appearance (80%). Seventy-six percent and 72% of the caregivers of children with conservative management did so due to concerns of surgical risks and mild appearance, respectively. There was a statistically significant relationship between both the parents’ (p < 0.001) and the surgeon’s (p = 0.001) impression of a severe head shape and surgical management. Parental satisfaction with their child’s appearance as well as satisfaction with their treatment decision did not differ between management types. Regarding quality of life, on univariate analysis, the conservative group had a statistically higher physical summary score (p = 0.01), psychosocial summary score (p = 0.004), and mean total scale score (p = 0.003) compared to the surgical group. However, after adjusting for severity and age at consult, no significant independent associations between management type and any of the PedsQL summary scores were found.
Alberta families have a high number of children with craniosynostosis treated with conservative management. Conservatively managed infants were largely minimally affected patients, particularly those with metopic synostosis. The study found no independent association between management type (surgery vs conservative) and quality of life when adjusted for important patient factors.