Craniofacial anomalies (CFA) are a variety of deformities in the growth of the head
and facial bones. Anomaly is a medical term meaning different from normal. These abnormalities
are present at birth (congenital). There are numerous variations. Some are mild. Some
are severe and need surgery. Some CFAs are associated with anomalies elsewhere in
the body. These can be serious.
Most healthcare providers agree that there is no single factor that causes these types
of abnormalities. Instead, many factors may contribute to their development. These
Cleft lip or cleft palate. A separation that happens in the lip or the palate (the roof of the mouth). The separation
can happen in both. Cleft lip and cleft palate are the most common congenital craniofacial
anomalies seen at birth.
Cleft lip. An abnormality in which the lip does not completely form. The degree of the cleft
lip can vary greatly. It can be mild. This would be a notching of the lip. Or, on
the other extreme, it could be severe. This could appear as a large opening from the
lip up through the nose.
Cleft palate. Happens when the roof of the mouth does not completely close. This leaves an opening
that can extend into the nasal cavity. The cleft may involve either side of the palate.
It can extend from the front of the mouth (hard palate) to the throat (soft palate).
The cleft may also include the lip.
Craniosynostosis. A condition in which the sutures (soft spots) in the skull of an infant close too
early. This causes problems with normal brain and skull growth. Premature closure
of the sutures may also cause the pressure inside of the head to increase. It may
also cause the skull or facial bones to change from a normal, symmetrical appearance.
Hemifacial microsomia. A condition in which the tissues on one side of the face are underdeveloped. This
mostly affects the ear (aural), mouth (oral), and jaw (mandibular) areas. Sometimes,
both sides of the face can be affected. This may involve the skull and the face. Hemifacial
microsomia is also known as Goldenhar syndrome, brachial arch syndrome, facio-auriculo-vertebral
syndrome, oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum, or lateral facial dysplasia.
Vascular malformation. A birthmark or growth, present at birth, that is composed of blood vessels. It can
cause problems in function or looks. Vascular malformations may involve multiple body
systems. There are several different types of malformations. They are named according
to which type of blood vessel is mostly affected. Vascular malformations are also
known as lymphangiomas, arteriovenous malformations, and vascular gigantism.
Hemangioma. A hemangioma is an abnormally growing blood vessel in the skin that may be present
at birth (faint red mark) or appear in the first months after birth. A hemangioma
is also known as a port wine stain, strawberry hemangioma, and salmon patch.
Deformational (or positional) plagiocephaly. A misshapen (asymmetrical) shape of the head from repeated pressure to the same area
of the head. Plagiocephaly literally means "oblique head" (from the Greek plagio for
oblique and cephale for head).