Brandon Longtin loves to move around, is “joyful,” puts anything in his mouth and has a smile that lights up a room, his mom, Gretchen, says.
The 7-month-old from Apache Junction hasn’t been slowed down one bit by his condition. Less than two months ago, a pediatric neurosurgeon diagnosed him with bilateral coronal synostosis.
In his case, both of Brandon’s coronal sutures fused long before they should have. The ailment creates a deformity of the head and could cause further problems if uncorrected, including eye muscle and sinus issues.
On Friday, neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Elton and cranial/facial surgeon Dr. Rodney Schmelzer took young Brandon into an operating room.
Three hours later, at Mesa’s Cardon Children’s Medical Center at Banner Desert Medical Center, Elton came out declaring, “It went great. He looks wonderful. Everything is freed up and back where we wanted.”
Brandon’s condition happens in about 1 of every 1,000 births, Elton said. During surgery, Elton took off the bone of Brandon’s forehead and the bone that makes up the upper part of each eye socket. The surgeons reshaped the bones and put them back in the correct position.
“The goal of the surgery is to free the bone up so his head can grow properly,” Elton said the day prior to surgery.
What causes coronal synostosis is unclear, Elton said. A baby born with one suture fused is more common. When there are two sutures fused, doctors believe there may be a genetic connection, but only genetic testing can show that, Elton said.
In some rare cases, fused sutures may constrain growth of the skull, which could put pressure on the brain and create developmental delays.
Brandon does not have those problems.
“The first and foremost issue is one of their general appearance,” Elton said. “While most of the children turn out to be developmentally and intellectually normal, if untreated they will look bizarre, which has an economic and social cost.”
Gretchen and her husband, Eric, learned while Gretchen was pregnant that something was not quite right with Brandon’s skull development. An ultrasound showed frontal bossing, or a depressed shape, on the front part of his head.
A pediatric specialist was on hand during Brandon’s birth as a precaution. Afterward, doctors and nurses told the family to watch his development.
They did. A few months ago, while looking at photos of Brandon, Eric said it was time to find a specialist.
And that led them to Elton. Gretchen found the surgeon through her insurance company. Right away, she knew she wanted to meet him. She liked the fact that the Mesa hospital was close to home, and Elton is an experienced surgeon.
Until about two years ago, East Valley children with the condition would not have had a neighborhood facility to receive treatment. Only Phoenix Children’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital, also in Phoenix, had comprehensive pediatric neurosurgery sites in the Valley, Elton said.
Today, Elton, who came to Cardon 19 months ago, and Dr. Petr Ruzicka serve as pediatric neurosurgeons at the Mesa hospital. In January, Elton said he conducted six similar surgeries to address cranial and facial structure issues in children.
As soon as the Longtins introduced Brandon to Elton, they were sent for a CT scan of Brandon’s head, Gretchen said.
“You could see it as clear as day that the sutures were closed,” she said.
Brandon will spend a few days in the hospital as he recovers, Elton said after surgery Friday.
“These kids generally do well with surgery and there are, thankfully, very few problems, worries or complications that happen,” he said.
Elton is also grateful for the family sharing their story.
“It is a way to connect families and try to allay fears the parents have,” he said.
A blog for Brandon
To see Gretchen Longtin’s blog about Brandon, see www.crazylongtins.blogspot.com