Infantile cortical hyperostosis
Infantile cortical hyperostosis is a self-limited inflammatory
Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process...

 disorder of infant
A newborn or baby is the very young offspring of a human or other mammal. A newborn is an infant who is within hours, days, or up to a few weeks from birth. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth...

s that causes bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

 changes, soft tissue
Soft tissue
In anatomy, the term soft tissue refers to tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body, not being bone. Soft tissue includes tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues, fat, and synovial membranes , and muscles, nerves and blood vessels .It is sometimes...

 swelling and irritability
Irritability is an excessive response to stimuli. The term is used for both the physiological reaction to stimuli and for the pathological, abnormal or excessive sensitivity to stimuli; It is usually used to refer to anger or frustration....

. The disease may be present at birth or occur shortly thereafter. The cause is unknown. Both familial and sporadic forms occur. It is also known as Caffey disease or Caffey's disease.


An affected infant typically has the following triad of signs
Medical sign
A medical sign is an objective indication of some medical fact or characteristic that may be detected by a physician during a physical examination of a patient....

 and symptom
A symptom is a departure from normal function or feeling which is noticed by a patient, indicating the presence of disease or abnormality...

s: soft-tissue swelling, bone lesions, and irritability. The swelling occurs suddenly, is deep, firm, and may be tender. Lesions are often asymmetric and may affect several parts of the body. Affected bones have included the mandible, tibia
The tibia , shinbone, or shankbone is the larger and stronger of the two bones in the leg below the knee in vertebrates , and connects the knee with the ankle bones....

, ulna
The ulna is one of the two long bones in the forearm, the other being the radius. It is prismatic in form and runs parallel to the radius, which is shorter and smaller. In anatomical position The ulna is one of the two long bones in the forearm, the other being the radius. It is prismatic in form...

, clavicle
In human anatomy, the clavicle or collar bone is a long bone of short length that serves as a strut between the scapula and the sternum. It is the only long bone in body that lies horizontally...

, scapula
In anatomy, the scapula , omo, or shoulder blade, is the bone that connects the humerus with the clavicle ....

, rib
In vertebrate anatomy, ribs are the long curved bones which form the rib cage. In most vertebrates, ribs surround the chest, enabling the lungs to expand and thus facilitate breathing by expanding the chest cavity. They serve to protect the lungs, heart, and other internal organs of the thorax...

s, humerus
The humerus is a long bone in the arm or forelimb that runs from the shoulder to the elbow....

, femur
The femur , or thigh bone, is the most proximal bone of the leg in tetrapod vertebrates capable of walking or jumping, such as most land mammals, birds, many reptiles such as lizards, and amphibians such as frogs. In vertebrates with four legs such as dogs and horses, the femur is found only in...

, fibula, skull
Human skull
The human skull is a bony structure, skeleton, that is in the human head and which supports the structures of the face and forms a cavity for the brain.In humans, the adult skull is normally made up of 22 bones...

, ilium
Ilium (bone)
The ilium is the uppermost and largest bone of the pelvis, and appears in most vertebrates including mammals and birds, but not bony fish. All reptiles have an ilium except snakes, although some snake species have a tiny bone which is considered to be an ilium.The name comes from the Latin ,...

, and metatarsals
The metatarsus or metatarsal bones are a group of five long bones in the foot located between the tarsal bones of the hind- and mid-foot and the phalanges of the toes. Lacking individual names, the metatarsal bones are numbered from the medial side : the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth...

. When the mandible (lower jaw bone) is affected, infants may refuse to eat, leading to failure to thrive
Failure to thrive
Failure to thrive is a medical term which is used in both pediatric and adult human medicine, as well as veterinary medicine ....



Most infants with infantile cortical hyperostosis are diagnosed by physical examination
Physical examination
Physical examination or clinical examination is the process by which a doctor investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease. It generally follows the taking of the medical history — an account of the symptoms as experienced by the patient...

. X-ray
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies in the range 120 eV to 120 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma...

s can confirm the presence of bone changes and soft tissue swelling. Biopsy
A biopsy is a medical test involving sampling of cells or tissues for examination. It is the medical removal of tissue from a living subject to determine the presence or extent of a disease. The tissue is generally examined under a microscope by a pathologist, and can also be analyzed chemically...

 of the affected areas can confirm the presence of typical histopathological
Histopathology refers to the microscopic examination of tissue in order to study the manifestations of disease...

 changes. No specific blood tests exist, but tests such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
The erythrocyte sedimentation rate , also called a sedimentation rate or Biernacki Reaction, is the rate at which red blood cells sediment in a period of 1 hour...

 (ESR) and alkaline phosphatase
Alkaline phosphatase
Alkaline phosphatase is a hydrolase enzyme responsible for removing phosphate groups from many types of molecules, including nucleotides, proteins, and alkaloids. The process of removing the phosphate group is called dephosphorylation...

 levels are often elevated. A complete blood count
Complete blood count
A complete blood count , also known as full blood count or full blood exam or blood panel, is a test panel requested by a doctor or other medical professional that gives information about the cells in a patient's blood...

 may show anemia
Anemia is a decrease in number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. However, it can include decreased oxygen-binding ability of each hemoglobin molecule due to deformity or lack in numerical development as in some other types of hemoglobin...

 (low red blood cell count) and leukocytosis
Leukocytosis is a raised white blood cell count above the normal range in the blood. It is frequently a sign of an inflammatory response, most commonly the result of infection, and is observed in certain parasitic infections...

 (high white blood cell count). Other tests may be done to help exclude other diagnoses. Ultrasound
Obstetric ultrasonography
Obstetric sonography is the application of medical ultrasonography to obstetrics, in which sonography is used to visualize the embryo or foetus in its mother's uterus...

 imaging can help diagnose prenatal cases.

Differential diagnosis

Osteomyelitis simply means an infection of the bone or bone marrow...

 (bone infection), which is much more common than infantile cortical hyperostosis, must be excluded, since it requires urgent treatment. Other diagnoses that can mimic this disorder and need to be excluded include physical trauma
Physical trauma
Trauma refers to "a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident." It can also be described as "a physical wound or injury, such as a fracture or blow." Major trauma can result in secondary complications such as circulatory shock, respiratory failure and death...

, child abuse
Child abuse
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Children And Families define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or...

, Vitamin A
Retinol is one of the animal forms of vitamin A. It is a diterpenoid and an alcohol. It is convertible to other forms of vitamin A, and the retinyl ester derivative of the alcohol serves as the storage form of the vitamin in animals....

 excess, hyperphosphatemia
Hyperphosphatemia is an electrolyte disturbance in which there is an abnormally elevated level of phosphate in the blood. Often, calcium levels are lowered due to precipitation of phosphate with the calcium in tissues.-Signs and symptoms:...

, prostaglandin
A prostaglandin is any member of a group of lipid compounds that are derived enzymatically from fatty acids and have important functions in the animal body. Every prostaglandin contains 20 carbon atoms, including a 5-carbon ring....

 E1 and E2 administration, scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

, infections (including syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

), Ewing sarcoma, and metastatic
Metastasis, or metastatic disease , is the spread of a disease from one organ or part to another non-adjacent organ or part. It was previously thought that only malignant tumor cells and infections have the capacity to metastasize; however, this is being reconsidered due to new research...

Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial solid cancer in childhood and the most common cancer in infancy, with an annual incidence of about 650 cases per year in the US , and 100 cases per year in the UK . Close to 50 percent of neuroblastoma cases occur in children younger than two years old...



In the early stages of infantile cortical hyperostosis, biopsy shows inflammation of the periosteum
Periosteum is a membrane that lines the outer surface of all bones, except at the joints of long bones. Endosteum lines the inner surface of all bones....

 and adjacent soft tissues. After this resolves, the periosteum remains thickened, and subperiosteal immature lamellar bone can be seen on biopsy, while the bone marrow
Bone marrow
Bone marrow is the flexible tissue found in the interior of bones. In humans, bone marrow in large bones produces new blood cells. On average, bone marrow constitutes 4% of the total body mass of humans; in adults weighing 65 kg , bone marrow accounts for approximately 2.6 kg...

 spaces contain vascular fibrous tissue. Eventually the inflammation and subperiosteal changes resolve, and hyperplasia of lamellar cortical bone can be seen.

Radiographs initially show layers of periosteal new bone formation with cortical thickening. Periosteal new bone may cover the diaphysis of the bone, causing an increase in diameter of the bone. Over time, the periosteal new bone density increases, becoming homogenous with the underlying cortex. Eventually the bone remodels and resumes a normal appearance.


Infantile cortical hyperostosis is a self-limited condition, meaning that the disease resolves on its own without treatment, usually within 6-9 months. Long-term deformities of the involved bones, including bony fusions and limb-length inequalities, are possible but rare.


The disease has been reported to affect 3 per 1000 infants younger than 6 months in the United States. No predilection by race or sex has been established. Almost all cases occur by the age of 5 months. The familial form is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion with variable penetrance
Penetrance in genetics is the proportion of individuals carrying a particular variant of a gene that also express an associated trait . In medical genetics, the penetrance of a disease-causing mutation is the proportion of individuals with the mutation who exhibit clinical symptoms...

. The familial form tends to have an earlier onset and is present at birth in 24% of cases, with an average age at onset of 6.8 weeks. The average age at onset for the sporadic form is 9-11 weeks.


John Caffey (1895-1978) first described infantile cortical hyperostosis in 1945. He described a group of infants with tender swelling in the soft tissues and cortical thickenings in the skeleton, with onset of these findings during the first 3 months of life.

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