Site Map

Sutures - separated

Separation of the sutures

Separated sutures are abnormally wide spaces in the bony joints of the skull in an infant.

Images

Skull of a newborn

I Would Like to Learn About:

Considerations

The skull of an infant or young child is made up of bony plates that allow for growth. The borders where these plates come together are called sutures or suture lines.

In an infant only a few minutes old, the pressure from delivery may compress the head. This makes the bony plates overlap at the sutures and creates a small ridge. This is normal in newborns. In the next few days, the baby's head expands. The overlap disappears and the edges of the bony plates meet edge-to-edge. This is the normal position.

Diseases or conditions that cause an abnormal increase in the pressure within the head can cause the sutures to spread apart. These separated sutures can be a sign of pressure within the skull (increased intracranial pressure).

Separated sutures may be associated with bulging fontanelles. If intracranial pressure is increased a lot, there may be large veins over the scalp.

Causes

The problem may be caused by:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if your child has:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will perform a physical exam. This will include examining the fontanelles and scalp veins and feeling (palpating) the sutures to find out how far they are separated.

The provider will ask questions about the child's medical history and symptoms, including:

The following tests may be performed:

Although your provider keeps records from routine checkups, you might find it helpful to keep your own records of your child's development. Bring these records to your provider's attention if you notice anything unusual.

Related Information

Increased intracranial pressure
Fontanelles - bulging

References

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Head and neck. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 9th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2019:chap 11.

Goyal NK. The newborn infant. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 113.

Rosenberg GA. Brain edema and disorders of cerebrospinal fluid circulation. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 88.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 2/2/2021  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2022 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.