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Microcephaly in infants and children: Etiology and evaluation

Author
Julie A Boom, MD
Section Editors
Jan E Drutz, MD
Helen V Firth, DM, FRCP, DCH
Marc C Patterson, MD, FRACP
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD

INTRODUCTION

The measurement of head circumference (also called occipitofrontal circumference [OFC]), a direct reflection of head growth, is an important step in the evaluation of childhood growth and development. Deviations from normal head growth may be the first indication of an underlying congenital, genetic, or acquired problem (eg, congenital infection, genetic syndrome) [1-4]. Many genetic conditions are associated with an abnormal pattern of head growth; the earlier these conditions are detected, the earlier appropriate treatment, services, and genetic counseling can be provided [5].

The etiology and evaluation of microcephaly in infants and children will be reviewed here. The etiology and evaluation of macrocephaly and the clinical genetics approach to microcephaly are discussed separately. (See "Microcephaly: A clinical genetics approach" and "Macrocephaly in infants and children: Etiology and evaluation", section on 'Etiology'.)

MONITORING HEAD GROWTH

When to measure — Occipitofrontal circumference (OFC) should be measured at health maintenance visits between birth and three years of age and in any child with neurologic symptoms.

Measuring technique — The measuring tape should encircle the head and include an area 1 to 2 cm above the glabella anteriorly and the most prominent portion of the occiput posteriorly (picture 1). Measurement of OFC in the newborn may be unreliable until the third or fourth day of life since it may be affected by caput succedaneum, cephalohematoma, or molding [6]. In older infants, the accuracy of the measurement may be affected by thick hair and deformation or hypertrophy of the cranial bone.

Normal head growth in infants and children is discussed separately. (See "Normal growth patterns in infants and prepubertal children", section on 'Head growth' and "The pediatric physical examination: HEENT", section on 'Anterior and posterior fontanelles'.)

                          

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Literature review current through: Nov 2016. | This topic last updated: Wed Apr 06 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2016.
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