Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Fontanelles - enlarged

Definition

Enlarged fontanelles are larger than expected soft spots for the age of a baby.

The skull of an infant or young child is made up of bony plates that allow for growth of the skull. The borders at which these plates intersect are called sutures or suture lines. The spaces where these connect, but are not completely joined, are called soft spots or fontanelles (fontanel or fonticulus).

Alternative Names

Soft spot - large; Newborn care - enlarged fontanelle; Neonatal care - enlarged fontanelle

Considerations

Fontanelles allow for growth of the skull during an infant's first year. Slow or incomplete closure of the skull bones is most often the cause of a wide fontanelle.

Causes

Larger than normal fontanelles are most commonly caused by:

  • Down syndrome
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR)
  • Premature birth

Rarer causes:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you think that the fontanelles on your baby's head are larger than they should be, talk to your health care provider. Most of the time, this sign will have been seen during the baby's first medical exam.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

An enlarged large fontanelle is almost always found by the health care provider during a physical exam.

  • The provider will examine the child and measure the child's head around the largest area.
  • The doctor may also turn off the lights and shine a bright light over the child's head.
  • Your baby's soft spot will be regularly checked at each well-child visit.

Blood tests and imaging tests of the head may be done.

References

Haddad J, Keesecker S. Congenital malformations. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 638.

Robinson S, Cohen AR. Disorders of the head shape and size. In: Martin RJ, Fanaroff AA, Walsh MC, eds. Fanaroff and Martin's Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 64.

Review Date:11/19/2015
Reviewed By:Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Health
Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No