Groundbreaking surgery helps triplets born with rare condition

Left to right: Jackson, Hunter and Kaden Howard.
Left to right: Jackson, Hunter and Kaden Howard. Photo: Howard Family

When Amy and Mike Howard discovered last year they weren't just carrying one baby, or even two, the surprise of conceiving triplets took quite a while to wear off.

"I was terrified. It took me a little bit of time to get used to the idea, to be honest," Amy said.

It wasn't to be the only shock of their journey however, with all three baby boys born with craniosynostosis, a condition where one or more of an infant's cranial plates fuse together prematurely and can affect brain growth. The condition affects 1 in 2500 babies, making the fact that all three babies were born with it all the more astonishing.

In fact, doctors couldn't find any reports of triplets born with craniosynostosis.

​"We worked out the probability of maybe one in 500 trillion to see a set of triplets that looked like these three," Dr David Chesler, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Stony Brook Medicine, said. 

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Baby Jackson. Photo: Howard Family

When Jackson, Hunter and Kaden were born on October 22, 2016, it was almost immediately obvious to doctors that there were issues with their skulls.

"Jackson could not lay on his head. He'd always have to have his head to the side because his skull was protruding so much from the back," Amy told Today.

The boys spent their first weeks in ICU while their medical team observed them and devised a treatment plan. Surgery was performed in January, when the trio were only nine weeks old. 

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​Hunter and Jackson are identical and so both had the most common form, sagittal synostosis, while fraternal brother Kaden was born with metopic synostosis, which results in a triangular-shaped forehead.

All three procedures were successful, and the triplets have spent 23 hours hours of every day wearing helmets to support recovery. 

The ground-breaking endoscopic surgery meant that the tiny boys were exposed to less risk than open-skull surgery, with doctors defusing the plates via two small incisions.

"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," Dr Chesler told Fox News. "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."

Their parents say that three months down the track, the boys are hitting milestones and recovering well, with dad Mike saying their initial fears have been allayed.

"That was my main concern, was it going to cause brain damage, or I was worried about his eye sight, but it all turned out great," he told CBS News.

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Photo: Howard Family