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Craniofacial defects refer to a broad range of birth defects that affect the bones or soft tissue in the face or head. While there are many types of craniofacial defects, some are more common than others and there are some common causes for all types of craniofacial defects.

4 Common Craniofacial Defects

The most common types of craniofacial defects include:

  • Cleft Palate: a cleft palate occurs when the bones on the roof of a child’s mouth do not close completely and instead leave a gap that may extend into the nasal cavity. Surgery is often required so that a child can eat and breathe with less difficulty.
  • Cleft Lip: a child born with a cleft lip has a lip that did not form properly during pregnancy. This injury often occurs with a cleft palate or other type of craniofacial defect and may require surgery.
  • Hemifacial Microsomia Syndrome: a child born with this condition has at least the lower half of one side of his or her face grow abnormally. For example, the child may be missing an ear or have an underdeveloped mouth or jaw. Surgery is often required to treat this type of craniofacial defect.
  • Craniosynostosis: this condition occurs when the bones that make up the skull are fused together and unable to expand as the brain grows. The sutures, or points where the skull bones meet, close earlier than normal and create an abnormally shaped head. A child may be suffering from craniosynostosis if there is no “soft spot” or fontanelle detectable at birth. For many children, this condition requires surgery to relieve pressure on the brain and allow the skull to expand to meet the growing brian.

Depakote May Cause Craniofacial Defects

Depakote is an anticonvulsant medication used to treat epilepsy, seizures, mania and migraine headaches. In December 2009, the FDA warned doctors and patients about the risks of taking divalproex sodium(Depakote) while pregnant. Among those risks was an increased chance of a child being born with a craniofacial defect. Women who are pregnant, or who want to become pregnant, are urged to only take Depakote if essential to their care because of this significant risk.

Topamax May Cause Cleft Lip & Palate

Topamax Lawsuits have been filed as a result of recent data discussed by the FDA on March 4, 2011 showed that a woman taking topiramate during the first trimested has perhaps a 21-times risk of giving birth to a child with a cleft lip or palate. A British registry shows a 16-times risk. When compared to other anti-epilepsy drugs, the risk is still 3-times as great.

Treatment for Craniofacial Defects

Treatment options for craniofacial defects depend on the type and extent of each individual’s condition. Often, treatment involves at least one surgery and a thorough medical examination to determine if other abnormalities exist since craniofacial defects are often accompanied by other medical problems.

We invite you to share this information with anyone you know who may know a baby affected by a craniofacial defect and to share your thoughts about this condition in the comments below.

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