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If you or your child’s pediatrician suspects your child’s head or skull isn’t forming normally, Arnold Palmer Hospital can help. The pediatric craniomaxillofacial surgeons and pediatric neurosurgeons with the Arnold Palmer Hospital Neuroscience Center of Excellence can evaluate your child’s head shape and offer education, reassurance and, if necessary, recommend nonsurgical therapy.
The first step in your child’s care is getting an accurate diagnosis from a pediatric craniomaxillofacial surgeon or pediatric neurosurgeon. While a diagnosis of abnormal head shape — often called “plagiocephaly” — may sound scary, the good news is the overwhelming majority of infants who develop an abnormal head shape do not require surgery and are otherwise healthy. However, non-surgical therapies such as physical therapy or helmet therapy (sometimes referred to as a “band”) may be beneficial.
While you may be concerned about your child’s appearance and well-being, know that your child’s health is in good hands with our specialists. Your child will receive the latest scanning technology for the fastest and most accurate head shape data collection. This software produces detailed measurement reports that are not available with other scanning systems. The recommended age to refer a child to the program is between 3 to 18 months. Severe head concerns should be scanned by 4 months; moderate head concerns by 6 months. Your doctor can help you determine the best course of treatment for your child.
Pediatric Plagiocephaly FAQs
After receiving a diagnosis of plagiocephaly, you will no doubt have many questions. We welcome your questions and want to do whatever we can to help you better understand what to expect before, during and after your child’s treatment.
What is plagiocephaly?
Plagiocephaly is the medical term for a head that looks “slanted” from above and has some flattening on one side. Deformational plagiocephaly, sometimes referred to as positional plagiocephaly, is the most common reason for this abnormal head shape.
How does this happen? During the first few months of life, infants have poor head control and often prefer to lie with their head turned the same way night after night. If this is continued for many weeks or months, it can lead to increased flattening on the back of the head or side of the head that the child favors. This can be even more exaggerated if there is a condition known as torticollis where the neck muscles are overly tight on one side. Infants should always be put to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) even at the risk of developing plagiocephaly
What does this diagnosis mean for my child?
Deformational plagiocephaly often improves without any need for medical treatment, and surgery is almost never required. As your child grows and gains better head control, the shape of the head will improve. These improvements should be evident once your child begins to sit up and spend significant time on his or her belly.
Rarely, children with abnormal head shape will have a different condition known as craniosynostosis. It is important to make sure that an expert determines the cause of your child’s abnormally shaped head since craniosynostosis requires surgical treatment and longer follow-up care.
What to expect during your first visit:
- If your child has positional plagiocephaly and is less than 6 months old, our team will provide education for the best conservative treatments. Remember, you should always place your baby to sleep on his or her back for safety. When your baby is awake, you should minimize the amount of time your baby spends on his or her back. Choose different positions and ways for your baby to be held during the day.
- If your infant has a problem with limited movement of the neck because of tight or shortened muscles (torticollis), we can recommend exercises or provide a referral to a physical therapist. These should help your child to improve movement of the head and decrease pressure on the affected area.
Will my child need to wear a helmet?
If your child is older than 6 months and has a significant amount of abnormality to the shape of his or her head, a cranial remolding orthosis (also known as a helmet or cranial band) may improve the speed or degree of improvement with future growth. Taking into account the degree of deformation and other contributing factors, our specialists may refer you to an orthotist (a specialist trained to design and fit your child’s helmet) who will provide your family with this service. The helmet or band will need to be worn 23 hours a day over several months with regular follow-up visits to the orthotist for proper care and benefit.
For more information on the Pediatric Plagiocephaly Program, please call us at (321) 841-3050.