More children found with skull deformity

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SIX MORE children with a rare skull deformity have been found in North Yorkshire, bringing to 28 the total number of cases known to doctors, writes Liz Hunt.

Dr Will Patterson, of North Yorkshire Health Authority, said yesterday that preliminary investigations had confirmed an unusually high incidence of cranio-synostosis in an area between York and Selby.

An expert working group is being set up to investigate the cluster, and determine the cause. Dr Patterson said: 'We now have enough evidence to say there is a problem. The next step is getting the experts to look at these cases one by one.'

Earlier this month, the authority said that 22 babies born between September 1990 and November 1992 had been diagnosed with the condition, and officials appealed to doctors who had treated other cases to come forward. The six new cases of suspected cranio-synostosis were identified as a result.

Cranio-synostosis is a condition in which one or more of the 'expansion' joints, known as sutures, in the skull fuse prematurely and can distort the shape of the head and face.

The precise number of cases is unknown but the incidence is put at between 1 in 2,000 and 1 in 4,000 births each year. The severity depends on how many sutures are fused; if only one is affected the problem is largely cosmetic, but if more are involved, pressure on the brain can lead to mental retardation.

The working group will consider possible causes for the cluster: pesticides, chemicals and lead pollution have been suggested.