Information for Patients
Craniofacial is a medical term that relates to the bones of the skull and face. Craniofacial abnormalities are birth defects of the face or head. Some, like cleft lip and palate, are among the most common of all birth defects. Others are very rare. Most of them affect how a person's face or head looks. These conditions may also affect other parts of the body.
Treatment depends on the type of problem. Plastic and reconstructive surgery may help the person's appearance.
Mandibulofacial dysostosis with microcephaly Mandibulofacial dysostosis with microcephaly (MFDM) is a disorder that causes abnormalities of the head and face. People with this disorder often have an unusually small head at birth, and the head does not grow at the same rate as the rest of the body, so it appears that the head is getting smaller as the body grows (progressive microcephaly). Affected individuals have developmental delay and intellectual disability that can range from mild to severe. Speech and language problems are also common in this disorder.Facial abnormalities that occur in MFDM include underdevelopment of the middle of the face and the cheekbones (midface and malar hypoplasia) and an unusually small lower jaw (mandibular hypoplasia, also called micrognathia). The external ears are small and abnormally shaped, and they may have skin growths in front of them called preauricular tags. There may also be abnormalities of the ear canal, the tiny bones in the ears (ossicles), or a part of the inner ear called the semicircular canals. These ear abnormalities lead to hearing loss in most affected individuals. Some people with MFDM have an opening in the roof of the mouth (cleft palate), which may also contribute to hearing loss by increasing the risk of ear infections. Affected individuals can also have a blockage of the nasal passages (choanal atresia) that can cause respiratory problems.Heart problems, abnormalities of the thumbs, and short stature are other features that can occur in MFDM. Some people with this disorder also have blockage of the esophagus (esophageal atresia). In esophageal atresia, the upper esophagus does not connect to the lower esophagus and stomach. Most babies born with esophageal atresia (EA) also have a tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF), in which the esophagus and the trachea are abnormally connected, allowing fluids from the esophagus to get into the airways and interfere with breathing. Esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula (EA/TEF) is a life-threatening condition; without treatment, it prevents normal feeding and can cause lung damage from repeated exposure to esophageal fluids.
Treacher Collins syndrome Treacher Collins syndrome is a condition that affects the development of bones and other tissues of the face. The signs and symptoms of this disorder vary greatly, ranging from almost unnoticeable to severe. Most affected individuals have underdeveloped facial bones, particularly the cheek bones, and a very small jaw and chin (micrognathia). Some people with this condition are also born with an opening in the roof of the mouth called a cleft palate. In severe cases, underdevelopment of the facial bones may restrict an affected infant's airway, causing potentially life-threatening respiratory problems.People with Treacher Collins syndrome often have eyes that slant downward, sparse eyelashes, and a notch in the lower eyelids called an eyelid coloboma. Some affected individuals have additional eye abnormalities that can lead to vision loss. This condition is also characterized by absent, small, or unusually formed ears. Hearing loss occurs in about half of all affected individuals; hearing loss is caused by defects of the three small bones in the middle ear, which transmit sound, or by underdevelopment of the ear canal. People with Treacher Collins syndrome usually have normal intelligence.