Dove, born in February, will have neurosurgery to treat the condition later this month.

By Maggie O'Neill
July 06, 2020
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Teddi Mellencamp, best known for starring on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, revealed in an Instagram post Monday that her youngest child, Dove, will have to undergo neurosurgery at the end of July to treat a condition known as lambdoid craniosynostosis.

"Dealing with anxiety, especially when it's in the 'public eye' isn't easy, and going into July it's at an all-time high," Mellencamp, 39, wrote in her Instagram post. "I was torn as to whether I should share this information, but as someone who tries to be as transparent as possible, and knowing I have a platform to reach others in similar situations, I would like to update you all."

She went on to reveal that her 4-month-old daughter, Dove Mellencamp Arroyave, was diagnosed with lambdoid craniosynostosis, and will have to undergo neurosurgery at the end of the month. Dove was born in February, and is Mellencamp's third child with her husband Edwin Arroyave.

Mellencamp shared that, while she and her family are nervous, she remains optimistic about the procedure, which requires a week in the hospital and more time in recovery at home. She explained that the procedure has “a very high success rate,” adding, “although we are filled with nerves as neurosurgery sounds scary, we have our faith that she will be ok.”

What is lambdoid craniosynostosis?

Craniosynostosis in general is a rare type of birth defect that impacts a baby's skull, in which the skull bones fuse together too soon, per the CDC. It affects roughly one in every 2,500 babies born in the US.

Typically, a baby is born with spaces between the skull bones filled with flexible material and called sutures, and as the baby grows, those sutures help the skull to grow as the baby's brain grows. A child's skull bones aren't fully fused together until about 2 years old.

In children with craniosynostosis, however, the skull bones fuse too early, which can cause the skull to become misshapen as the baby's brain continues to grow outside of the womb. If left untreated, craniosynostosis can limit or slow a baby’s brain growth, the CDC reports.

There are four main types of craniosynostosis, all of which depend on what sutures join together too soon, per the CDC: sagittal, coronal, lambdoid, and metopic. Dove’s diagnosis of lambdoid craniosynostosis means that her lambdoid suture, which runs along the back of the head, closed too early. This particular diagnosis puts children in danger of suffering from the flattening of the back of the head (also known as posterior plagiocephaly). Lambdoid craniosynostosis is among the rarest types of the birth defect, the CDC reports.

What are the symptoms of craniosynostosis?

Craniosynostosis is usually diagnosed after the baby is born, with the first symptom typically being an abnormally shaped skull. Other signs of craniosynostosis include:

  • No “soft spot” on the baby’s skull.
  • A raised firm edge where the sutures closed early.
  • Slow growth or no growth in the baby’s head size over time.

According to Mellencamp's post, she and her family originally thought that Dove had a condition called torticollis, a common condition in newborns that results in a tilted head or trouble turning the neck. "We thought dove had torticollis and would likely need a doc band for re-shaping," she wrote.

The CDC notes that doctors can identify craniosynostosis through a physical exam in which the physician will feel the baby's head for hard edges or unusual soft spots. The doctor will also look for any issues that appear with the shape of the baby's face. Further testing, like special X-rays or CT/CAT scans can help confirm the diagnosis and show how the brain is growing.

What causes craniosynostosis and how is it treated?

The cause of craniosynostosis is often unknown. However, the condition has been linked to maternal thyroid disease and the use of certain medications while pregnant. (Among these medications is a fertility medication called clomiphene citrate, according to the CDC.)

The good news is that most children with craniosynostosis “are otherwise healthy,” according to the CDC, though some do suffer from intellectual disabilities or developmental delays. These complications can occur due to one of two reasons, the CDC says: “either the craniosynostosis has kept the baby’s brain from growing and working normally, or because the baby has a genetic syndrome that caused both craniosynostosis and problems with how the brain works.”

The surgery used to treat craniosynostosis is done so that pressure on the baby’s brain is relieved and the condition is corrected. The procedure usually takes place within the first year of life if surgery is needed, which isn’t always the case; babies with mild craniosynostosis don’t require surgery. Special medical helmets are sometimes used to treat the condition, helping to “mold the baby’s skull into a more regular shape,” the CDC reports.

Mellencamp ended her Instagram post by asking for prayers for Dove as well as for any insights for mothers who have been through what she’s going through now. “Please keep baby Dove in your prayers and if you have had a child with this same surgery, please let me know below, as I would love any additional insight and support.”

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