Separated sutures are abnormally wide spaces in the bony joints of the skull in an infant.
Separation of the sutures
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.
The problem may be caused by:
Contact your health care provider if your child has:
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.
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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.
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.