Health Team

Duke first in NC to surgically correct infant skull deformity

Posted August 18, 2011

— Babies born with a skull deformity can get help from Duke University Hospital surgeons who are the first in the state to perform a minimally invasive procedure to fix the problem.

Four-month-old Catherine Bowman, of Sumter, S.C., was one in 2,500 children born with a fused skull called craniosynostosis.

Catherine's parents quickly noticed that her skull was shaped differently than that of her fraternal twin, Margaret.

"As soon as I saw her when they brought her in, I said, 'Nah, this ain't right,'" mother Catherine Zyback said, adding that she felt a hard ridge on her baby's head.

In babies such as Catherine, the saggitall suture, which is tissue that connects the two skull bones, fuses too early. That puts pressure on the brain and can change the shape of the head.

Open surgery, which is standard to correct the problem offers great results, but a lot of blood loss and some permanent scars are associated with it.

Catherine will become the first infant in North Carolina to undergo an alternative surgery, which uses two small incisions and endoscopic cameras.

"The visualization now with our optics is so good with high definition that we can see ... just beautifully," Duke neurosurgeon Dr. Gerald Grant said.

Grant performed the procedure as it was pioneered at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. The treatment has been available for 10 years, but other hospitals have been slow to adopt it.

"But over time, it's been shown that the results of these surgery can be absolutely incredible," Duke plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Marcus said.

Four-month-old Catherine Bowman Duke surgically corrects infant skull deformity

The endoscopic surgery is quicker and the hospital stay shorter than with the standard surgery. Instead of the skull being reshaped artificially, it grows naturally into a normal, round shape as the child wears a helmet for 18 months.

"It'll be just part of her wardrobe. They come in all sorts of colors, even camoflauge," Catherine's father, James Bowman, said.

"She won't even remember it. You know, she's going to be not even 2 years old when it comes off," Zyback said.

Surgery to correct craniosynostosis should be done by the time a baby is five months old to reduce the risk of complications, which include death.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • tomcrysa Aug 19, 2011

    My daughter also had sagittal cranio but had Dr. Lisa David of Wake Forest Baptist Childrens Hospital preform the newest technique to correct this condition- spring mediaded surgery. At the time she was the only surgeon in the states to do the surgery, quick surgery, minimal blood loss, fast recovery and does away with the risk of early fusion that can and does happen on occasion with the endoscopic version plus there is not the need for the helmet therapy. The only draw back with this surgery is they do have to go back and have the springs removed but it is a very quick and simple process and the child is usually released right from recovery. Wish WRAL would do an piece on this amazing procedure and Dr. David! My little girl is six years post op and doing awesome!

  • Killian Aug 18, 2011

    My son had this too, but we were so lucky that he didn't need intervention. How wonderful that the new technology is available!

  • Pseudonym Aug 18, 2011

    How blessed are we to live in this area with 2 of the best research hospitals in the WORLD right in our backyard?

  • cperry9369 Aug 18, 2011

    my son was also born with this condition 18 years ago and this procedures sounds like it is so much easier than what he went through back then. I am glad technology has improved. THere is a chance that my sons children will be born the same and now there may be hope that I have grandchildren. He says he will not have kids if they go through what he went through.

  • Desiderata Aug 18, 2011

    Actually, reading the headline is totally misleading...needs to mention that the NC docs have tried a new way to correct this , The headline makes it look like the Duke docs are the first to ever do this..

  • wolfpackfan5 Aug 18, 2011

    Hello my name is Rachel R Diaz and my son is scheduled to hace the same surgery performed by Dr.Grant and Dr.Marcus on sept 2,2011 and I sure hope that everything goes well and me and his father will be praying for our son to come out of surgery.We love our son and am glad that we are not the only ones here in NC with a child that has Sagittal Synotosis you may contact me by email if you all need some more info at

  • JAT Aug 18, 2011


  • tslittle Aug 18, 2011

    *sagittal suture

  • IMHO05 Aug 18, 2011

    I have two children who were born with this condition. They are now 13 and 15. The endoscopic surgery was pioneered after their surgeries. It is great that there is now a much less invasive option for this procedure.

  • cheezchicken Aug 18, 2011

    This is the kind of story that makes living in NC worthwhile. We need to hear more of these kinds of stories.

    Hopefully the mother of this child won't continue to speak in such dismal English. "Nah, this ain't right" just puts a tarnish on the whole tale.