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Skull of a newborn
Skull of a newborn


Microcephaly
Microcephaly


Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain
Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain


Definition:

Microcephaly describes a head size significantly below normal for a person's age and sex, based on standardized charts. Head size is measured as the distance around the top of the head.



Considerations:

Microcephaly most often occurs because of failure of the brain to grow at a normal rate. Skull growth is determined by brain expansion, which takes place during the normal growth of the brain during pregnancy and infancy.

Conditions that affect brain growth can cause microcephaly, including infections, genetic disorders, and severe malnutrition.



Common Causes:

Primary Causes:

Secondary Causes:



Home Care:

There are no specific home care procedures for microcephaly. Care depends on the condition that caused the microcephaly.



Call your health care provider if:

Microcephaly is often diagnosed at birth or during routine well-baby examinations when the infant's height, weight, and head circumference is measured. If you suspect your infant's head size is too small or not growing normally, consult your health care provider.



What to expect at your health care provider's office:

This finding is usually discovered by the health care provider during routine examination. Head measurements are a routine procedure during a well-baby examination up to 18 months (longer in certain circumstances). They are painless and take only a few seconds while the measuring tape is placed around the infant's head.

Documenting microcephaly in detail may include:

  • What is the head circumference?
  • Is the head growing at a slower rate than the body?
  • What other symptoms are also present?

Note: A record of the head circumference should be maintained over time.

Although the health care provider maintains records on your baby, it may be helpful to maintain your own records of the well-baby findings, and to bring your records to the health care provider's attention if you notice that the infant's head growth pattern seems to be decreasing.

If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider related to microcephaly, you may want to note that diagnosis in your child's personal medical record.




Review Date: 11/9/2007
Reviewed By: Deirdre O’Reilly, M.D., M.P.H., Neonatologist, Division of Newborn Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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