Stony Brook Medicine performs first-ever procedure on triplets with rare skull condition

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Amy and Michael Howard of Center Moriches couldn’t believe when they heard that they were having triplets, but the surprises didn’t stop there.  Shortly after birth, the first time parents found out in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Stony Brook Medicine that all three of their babies — Jackson, Hunter, and Kaden — had Craniosynostosis, a congenital premature fusion of one or more sutures on a baby’s skull

triplets

At a press conference on May 1, 2017, Elliot Duboys, MD, Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics, Stony Brook Medicine, Michael and Amy Howard, and David Chesler, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics, Stony Brook Medicine, held six-month-old triplets Jackson, Hunter, and Kaden Howard.

It’s particularly unusual because Jackson and Hunter, the identical siblings, both had Sagittal Synostosis, while Kaden, the fraternal triplet, had Metopic Synostosis.

“Craniosynostosis in itself is not extraordinarily rare; it’s about 1 in every 2,000 to 1 in every 2,500 live births,” said David Chesler, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics, Stony Brook Medicine. “However, what makes Howards unique is that they are triplets, all of whom had Craniosynostosis. This is something that has never been reported in the medical literature.”

Although the initial symptoms of Craniosynostosis are primarily cosmetic, the child may also have increased intracranial pressure. Dr. Chesler explains that if the pressure is left unaddressed for a long period of time, it could have long-term consequences.

On January 5-6, 2017, Dr. Chesler, with Elliot Duboys, MD, Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics, Stony Brook Medicine, corrected the triplets’ skull with minimally invasive endoscopic surgeries. The procedure was done through two small incisions, and it removed a strip of bone to release the fused seam.“You could tell that their heads were a little bit malformed or deformed,” said Amy Howard. “It was really extremely scary thinking about your 8- or 9-week-old baby going through surgery.”

As part of the postoperative care, the three boys wear custom-fit helmets, 23 hours a day/7 days a week, to help guide and mold the shape of their skulls as they grow.  

“The first two weeks, when we brought them home with the helmets, they didn’t like it.” said Mike Howard. “But now, it’s like putting on a baseball cap for them.”

Now four months post-surgery and six months old, the triplets are hitting all of their developmental milestones.  

“At this point, the triplets are thriving,” said Dr. Chesler. “The prognosis for Jackson, Hunter, and Kaden is perfect — they will do quite well both cosmetically and developmentally.”

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