When Matthew Shores was 2 months old in 2010, Matthew’s pediatrician noticed that he had an abnormal triangular head shape, including forehead ridging. He referred the family to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital at SLU. It was here that Matthew’s mother Candice met Dr. Alexander Lin, MD, the Director of the St. Louis Cleft-Craniofacial Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. He is a member of the SLUCare Physician Group, and board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Alexander Lin, M.D., uses 3-D models for complex facial reconstruction.
Dr. Lin diagnosed Matthew with congenital metopic craniosynostosis at 3 months of age. Craniosynostosis is a condition that happens with about 1 in every 2,000 births. The infant brain triples in size during the first year of life, allowed by the multiple growth sutures between the craniofacial growth plates. In craniosynostosis, the suture is fused, resulting in abnormal growth and head shape, and restriction on the brain that could lead to increased intracranial pressure, which can impair the development of the brain, vision, or airway.
Craniosynostosis requires reconstructive surgery to increase the space in the skull, as well as to re-shape the bones to create a normal head shape. When Matthew was one year old, the Plastic Surgery team performed fronto-orbital advancement and cranial vault remodeling to move his eye bones and forehead bones forward into a more normal position and make more room for the brain. Patients with cleft-craniofacial conditions are followed regularly, and as Matthew grew, five years later he had areas that needed more bone. To minimize needing bone grafts from other areas of his body, Plastic Surgery used donated bone calcium chips to pack these areas of missing bone. Unfortunately, Matthew’s body dissolved most of those donated bone chips, and required him wearing a soft helmet and avoiding sports, until he could get a different reconstruction.
Eventually, Matthew would need another surgery. Throughout that time, Matthew’s passion to play baseball (which was already strong) grew stronger. His care team worked to have a custom protective helmet made for him, because he so desperately wanted to play. In the Summer of 2018, he tried out for 4 select baseball teams. He received 4 call-backs and was told was told that even though another surgery was planned for Matthew in July, the team would hold spot for him.
In planning for Matthew’s next surgery, Dr. Lin used in-house 3D-printing technology at Cardinal Glennon’s 3D Printing Center of Excellence, to create a model of Matthew’s skull, and a guide for his complex three-dimensional skull defect. This 3D-printed guide allowed him to find the perfect bone graft donor site from a different area of his skull, that perfectly matched and filled his skull defect. This would carry less risk of bone graft absorption since they would be transplanting his own bone. In July 2018 at age 8, Matthew had that surgery, utilizing the 3D-printed guide to obtain his own bone perfectly shaped for the skull defect. The surgery was successful, and Matthew played baseball that summer, calling Dr. Lin his “hero”. Matthew will have his 1 year follow up on August 13, 2019, and he looks forward to seeing Dr. Lin to share all of his baseball adventures from this season.