Doctors Treat Triplets Born With Rare Skull Condition

First Posted: May 03, 2017 06:20 AM EDT

Long Island doctors carried out the first-ever operation of its kind on triplets born with craniosynostosis, a rare skull condition. In January, the triplets -- Hunter, Jackson and Kaden Howard -- all underwent surgery at the Stony Brook University Hospital to repair their skulls, which did not form properly.

Their 38-year-old mother Amy Howard said, according to CBS News, "You could tell that their heads were a little bit malformed." She also said that it was "extremely scary" to think of 8-week or 9-week-old babies going through surgery.

While craniosynostosis is rare, occuring in about 1 in 2,000 births, it is even more rare in triplets. Doctors estimate the condition to affect only 1 in 500 trillion. What made the Howard triplets even more unusual is that they are not all identical.

Dr. David Chesler, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Stony Brook, said that they "worked out the probability of maybe one in 500 trillion to see a set of triplets that looked like these three."

Besides looking plain weird, there is more than a cosmetic aspect to the necessity of their surgeries. Deformed skulls -- especially like that of the triplets, which appeared wedge-like -- have the tendency to restrict brain growth. Doctors at Stony Brook explained that the triplets' skulls fused too early in their mother's uterus, something that was supposed to happen later on. Because their brains were still growing, their skulls have been pushed to abnormal shapes.

Of the three, ABC News noted that Kaden had the less common version of craniosynostosis, called metopic synostosis. In his condition, the front of his skull fused, giving his forehead a pinched look.

To fix craniosynostosis, doctors had to remove part of the skull from each of the infant via surgery in January. This is to keep the pressure from building within the skull, which could harm their brains. Because of the boys' sizes, they only underwent a minimally invasive procedure that involved small incisions. This led to a less riskier operation with a better outcome for the triplets.

The triplets' father, Mike Howard, admitted that he and his wife were "freaking out" about the situation. However, he also added that the staff of Stony Brook had been "amazing" throughout the ordeal.

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