Macrocephaly

Also known as: big head, increased head circumference

What is macrocephaly?

When a child has a head circumference that is larger than normal (for the infant's gestational age, age, sex and race), the medical term is macrocephaly. The growth of the head is related to the volume of its contents (brain, cerebrospinal fluid -CSF- the normal fluid surrounding the brain- and blood and bone). Any change in any of these will increase the circumference of the head. Sometimes babies with large heads are born into families with large heads and when this happens it usually doesn't cause any problem. When macrocephaly is due to the brain being enlarged (megalencephaly), or if there is more CSF than normal (the commonest causes) than the condition needs to be further assessed.
 

What causes macrocephaly?

There are a large number of conditions that give rise to megacephaly. Some occur as a part of another medical condition. In other infants/children, it is part of a disorder inherited from family members. Not infrequently no cause can be found.
 

What are the signs/ symptoms of macrocephaly?

Parents need to watch for a bulging soft spot on the top of the head (fontanel), vomiting, poor feeding, abnormal eye or limb movements, irritability or sleepiness and poor mental development (some are signs of increased pressure in the head).

What are macrocephaly care options?

Children with benign macrocephaly won't need any treatment. For all the other many different conditions that can cause macrocephaly medical management will vary. Help with managing specific symptoms is available as is surgery when indicated.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 10/31/2017 11:51:26 AM

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