Learn About Increased Head Circumference

What is the definition of Increased Head Circumference?

Increased head circumference is when the measured distance around the widest part of the skull is larger than expected for the child's age and background.

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What are the alternative names for Increased Head Circumference?


What is some background information about Increased Head Circumference?

A newborn's head is usually about 2 cm (0.78 inch) larger than the chest size. Between 6 months and 2 years, both measurements are about equal. After 2 years, the chest size becomes larger than the head.

Measurements over time that show an increased rate of head growth often provide more valuable information than a single measurement that is larger than expected.

Increased pressure inside the head (increased intracranial pressure) often occurs with increased head circumference. Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Eyes moving downward
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
What are the causes of Increased Head Circumference?

Increased head size may be from any of the following:

  • Benign familial macrocephaly (family tendency toward large head size)
  • Canavan disease (condition that affects how the body breaks down and uses a protein called aspartic acid)
  • Hydrocephalus (buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling)
  • Bleeding inside the skull
  • Disease in which the body is unable to break down long chains of sugar molecules (Hurler or Morquio syndrome)
When should I contact a medical professional for Increased Head Circumference?

The health care provider usually finds an increased head size in a baby during a routine well-baby exam.

What should I expect during a doctor appointment?

A careful physical exam will be done. Other milestones for growth and development will be checked.

In some cases, a single measurement is enough to confirm that there is a size increase that needs to be tested further. More often, repeated measurements of the head circumference over time are needed to confirm that the head circumference is increased and the problem is getting worse.

Diagnostic tests that may be ordered include:

  • Head CT scan
  • MRI of the head
  • Cranial ultrasound

Treatment depends on the cause of the increased head size. For example, for hydrocephalus, surgery may be needed to relieve the buildup of fluid inside the skull.

Skull of a newborn
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What are the latest Increased Head Circumference Clinical Trials?
Evaluation Nationale Des Enfants et Adultes Avec Syndromes d'Hypercroissance Dysharmonieuse National Evaluation of Patients With PIK3CA-Related Overgrowth Spectrum (PROS)

Summary: Overgrowth syndromes are rare genetic disorders defined by tissue hypertrophy that can be either localized or generalized, affecting both latitudinal and longitudinal growth. The genes involved in overgrowth syndromes are not well characterized but mostly concern the PIK3CA/AKT/mTOR pathway, a major actor of cell growth and proliferation. The mutations are not inherited but occurs during embryogen...

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Natural History Study of Individuals With Autism and Germline Heterozygous PTEN Mutations

Summary: The purpose of this study is to determine cross-sectional and longitudinal medical, behavioral, and cognitive differences between PTEN ASD and other groups, as well as to identify cognitive, neural systems, and molecular biomarkers specific to PTEN ASD. In addition, this study will be creating and maintaining a biorepository and linked phenotypic database for PTEN ASD.

What are the Latest Advances for Increased Head Circumference?
Reduction cranioplasty for hydrocephalic macrocephaly: clinical observations and literature review.
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Lessons learnt from 101 hemispheric pediatric epilepsy surgeries part ii: pitfalls and complications.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: May 24, 2021
Published 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.

What are the references for this article ?

Bamba V, Kelly A. Assessment of growth. 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 27.

Mitchell AL. Congenital abnormalities. Disorders in head shape and size. In: Martin RJ, Fanaroff AA, Walsh MC, eds. Fanaroff and Martin's Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 30.