How is Microcephaly Diagnosed?
Microcephaly is diagnosed by measuring the head circumference and comparing the measurement with standard growth charts for children of the same age and sex. The diagnosis may be made prenatally using ultrasound, or it may be made by measuring the infant’s head circumference at least 24 hours after birth. Microcephaly may also be diagnosed later, based on a pattern of poor head growth during the first few years of life.
Are Other Tests Needed?
Testing primarily seeks to isolate a cause for microcephaly and identify any complications. The evaluating physician will perform a detailed physical exam and obtain a specific birth history for the affected infant as well as a thorough history of medical conditions or birth defects in the family. Additional testing is guided by the presence or absence of associated findings. Blood tests, CT scans, or MRI scans may be appropriate tests for some infants.
How is Microcephaly Treated?
There is no specific treatment for microcephaly. The only exception may be in cases of craniosynostosis, where treatment is surgical. Treatment for infants with microcephaly focuses on managing the underlying cause and is, therefore, variable according to each child’s unique case. Early developmental intervention and services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy are the mainstays in cases of developmental delay or impairments of cognitive development. Medications may be appropriate for controlling seizures or other complications.
What is the Prognosis for infants with microcephaly?
Microcephaly usually does not resolve over time. The head will continue to grow, but in most cases it will remain smaller than the head size of age-matched peers. In general, the cause of microcephaly determines the likely long-term outcome. Isolated microcephaly may result in normal intelligence. For those with other medical conditions or complications, the prognosis is variable, ranging from mild disability to more severe impairment.
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About The Author
Dr. Whitney has practiced for over nine years as a general pediatrician, and her interests include helping children develop healthy habits and toddler feeding issues. Connect with Dr. Whitney.