Fetal Skull Anatomy – What’s the Difference between Adult Skull and Pediatrics Skull Anatomy?
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The main difference between pediatrics vs adult is in the size of the infant skull versus that of an adult skull. Compared to a fully developed skull where the facial portion is about half that of the cranium, in a newborn baby, the facial portion is about 1/8th that of the cranium.
This makes the fetal cranium look large compared to the facial bone area.
An adult skull is made of 8 cranial bones and 14 facial bones totaling 22 bones. The skull bones are also connected together by sutures due to the process of ossification (metopic suture, coronal suture, sagittal suture, lambdoid suture).
In an infant, the skull bones are unossified — occipital, temporal, sphenoid, frontal, mandible bones have more than one piece. Fetal skull anatomy is also characterized by the presence of soft membranous areas called fontanelles (soft spots) that eventually become sutures in an adult skull.
You have the large anterior fontanelle (Bregma) surrounded by 4 bones and a membranous floor and the triangular shaped posterior fontanelle (Lambda) surrounded by 3 bones and a bony floor.
You can feel the baby skull’s soft spot till the age of about 10-16 months as the bones are still in the growth phase. This makes a case for infant skull protection to prevent accidental injury to the brain and soft tissue.
From a pediatrics viewpoint, fontanelles are areas of the skull that haven’t ossified yet and hence are visible as 6 gaps. This coincides with and allows for infant brain development.
These gaps eventually close (fuse together) to form cranial sutures that connect the various skull bones that make up the fully developed adult skull anatomy.
The posterior fontanelle closes first within a few months after birth while the anterior fontanelle closes by the age of 2 years (24 months).
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