Cloverleaf skull (craniosynostosis)

Last revised by Joshua Yap on 8 May 2023

Cloverleaf skull, also known as kleeblattschädel syndrome or deformity, refers to a type of severe craniosynostosis that gives the skull a cloverleaf shape. It is very rare, with less than 130 case reports globally. It typically results from intrauterine premature closure of the sagittal, coronal and lambdoid sutures, through which the cranial contents bulge, giving rise to the characteristic trilobate shape (hence the name).

It is usually seen in the context of the following conditions: 

The vast majority of patients with kleeblattschädel have intellectual impairment and hydrocephalus. 

History and etymology

The name is derived from the German words "klee" (clover), "blatt" (leaf) and "schädel" (skull). Holtermüller and Wiedemann gave the name "Kleeblattschädel syndrome" in their paper published in the journal Medicinische Bild in 1958 describing severe cranial deformity. The name was then included in the second edition of the dictionary of clinical syndromes by Leiber in 1959.

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