Their conditions were rare and discovered in shock for the first-time parents, Amy and Michael Howard.
“I was nervous before the surgery for sure,” said Amy. “But now they're doing great. It's amazing.”
“If you crunch all the numbers, the chance of having triplets with these conditions is one in 500 trillion,” according to David Chesler, the surgeon who had successfully performed the operation on the triplets.
A rare brain deformity
Last year October, the triplets, Jackson, Hunter and Kaden Howard, were born with craniosynostosis, a rare condition whereby parts of their skulls are fused in the womb, which resulted in development of abnormally-shaped heads.
Craniosynostosis may lead to vision loss and limited brain growth. Besides, the treatment can be risky if not detected early. Fortunately, the boys were diagnosed at one-week old following close monitoring in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Jackson and Hunter, who are identical, had sagittal synostosis whereas Kaden, who is fraternal, had metopic synostosis, and therefore the two conditions involve different bones in the skull.
Chesler said when he saw the children, he could immediately identify the medical conditions but was astonished. He decided to perform a CT scan on each of the children as they showed such significant deformities.
“The chances of this happening are so rare. It has never been documented in medical literature, and nobody I've spoken to has ever seen this before,” he added.
As reported, the chance of having triplets is one in 1,000. While the chance of sagittal synostosis is one in 4,000, the chance of metopic synostosis is one in 10,000.
Healthy boys following successful operation
The boys’ mother, Amy, admitted she was unaware that her children suffered from skull deformation. The parents had only found out during their second obstetrician visit.
“I started to worry about brain damage - if their brains couldn't grow, what does that mean exactly? There isn't clear data on links between craniosynostosis and brain development,” said Amy.
At nine weeks old, the boys underwent simultaneous skull surgery at Children’s Hospital in New York. Each boy was operated individually within two days by removing a bone from the skull to release the prematurely closed suture.
“This procedure has comparable results to traditional open-skull surgery, but open surgery can take from two to six hours and require around five days in the hospital,” said Chesler.
“In addition, there is rarely a need for blood transfusions with endoscopic surgery, unlike open-skull, so the risk of blood loss and complications are dramatically lowered,” he added.
Five months after the surgery, the triplets were able to reach key developmental milestones and are just as lively and energetic as any six-month-olds. 95% of cases have shown completely normal head development after surgery and recovery.
As part of the postoperative care, the boys are now wearing custom-fit helmets to help guide and mold the shape of their skulls as they grow. They will need to wear the helmets for six months and with check-ups twice a year until they reach the age of six. MIMS
Born with brain outside his skull, boy is now fighting fit
5 exceedingly rare diseases
Olmsted Syndrome: The rare genetic disorder that labelled three girls as the 'untouchables'