Search

Increased head circumference

Definition

Increased head circumference is when the measured distance around the widest part of the skull is larger than expected for the child's age and background.

Alternative Names

Macrocephaly

Considerations

A newborn's head is usually about 2 centimeters larger than the chest size. Between 6 months and 2 years, both measurements are about equal. After 2 years, the chest size becomes larger than the head.

A series of measurements over time that show an increased rate of head growth often can provide more valuable information than a single measurement that is larger than expected.

Increased pressure in the head (increased intracranial pressure ) often occurs with increased head circumference. Symptoms of this condition include:

See also: Bulging fontanelles

Common Causes

Home Care

Call your health care provider if

The health care provider usually finds macrocephaly during a routine well-baby exam.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The health care provider will take a medical history and will perform a physical examination .

Medical history questions may include:

  • Time pattern
  • Location
  • Other

The distance is measured in centimeters or inches and compared with:

  • Past measurments of a child's head circumference
  • Normal ranges for a child's sex and age (weeks, months) -- based on normal growth rates of infants' and children's heads

A careful physical exam will be done. Other milestones for growth and development will be checked.

In some cases, a single measurement is enough to confirm that there is a size increase that needs to be tested further. More often, repeated measurements of the head circumference over a period of time are needed to confirm that the head circumference is increased and the problem is getting worse.

Diagnostic tests vary depending on the cause, but often include:

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.