Craniotabes

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Definition

Craniotabes is a softening of the skull bones.

Alternative Names

Congenital cranial osteoporosis

Causes

Craniotabes can be a normal finding in infants, particularly premature infants. It may occur in up to one third of all newborn infants.

Craniotabes is harmless in the newborn, unless it is associated with other problems. These can include rickets and osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bones).

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Soft areas of the skull, especially along the suture line
  • Soft areas pop in and out
  • Bones may feel soft, flexible, and thin along the suture lines

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will press the bone along the area where the bones of the skull come together. The bone often pops in and out, similar to pressing on a Ping-Pong ball if the problem is present.

No testing is done unless osteogenesis imperfecta or rickets is suspected.

Treatment

Craniotabes that are not associated with other conditions are not treated.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Complete healing is expected.

Possible Complications

There are no complications in most cases.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

This problem is most often found when the baby is examined during a well-baby check. Call your provider if you notice that your child has signs of craniotabes (to rule out other problems).

Prevention

Most of the time, craniotabes is not preventable. Exceptions are when the condition is associated with rickets and osteogenesis imperfecta.

References

Escobar O, Viswanathan P, Witchel SF. Pediatric endocrinology. In: Zitelli, BJ, McIntire SC, Nowalk AJ, eds. Zitelli and Davis' Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 9.

Graham JM, Sanchez-Lara PA. Vertex craniotabes. In: Graham JM, Sanchez-Lara PA, eds. Smith's Recognizable Patterns of Human Deformation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 36.

Greenbaum LA. Vitamin D deficiency (rickets) and excess. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 64.

Review Date: 
2/2/2021
Reviewed By: 
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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