Also known as ‘flat head syndrome’, deformational plagiocephaly is the most common craniofacial problem among babies today. It is characterised by a flattening on the back or one side of the baby’s skull, which can occur when the baby’s head lies in the same position for too long – usually when they’re left to sleep on their back for prolonged periods. Other causes include in-utero constraint, pressure put on the cranium during birth, and muscular/congenital torticollis.
If left untreated, the condition may correct itself. However, if it fails to do this, it can leave the child with an asymmetrical head shape and facial abnormalities.
Where necessary, it’s important to seek treatment between 4 to 8 months of age, as this is when the greatest correction can be achieved. Treatment may be sought from specialists including plastic surgeons, orthotists, chiropractors, and paediatric physiotherapists.
The most common forms of treatment are:
Counter positioning – This involves repositioning the baby to ensure their head is not resting on the flat spot. Babies should also be encouraged to lie on their tummies and on their sides during playtime.
Helmet therapy – In more serious cases, or where counter positioning has failed, a cranial remodelling helmet may be custom-fitted in order to mould the skull. The helmet removes pressure on the flat area, which allows the skull to grow into the available space. Helmet therapy typically lasts for 2 to 6 months, during which time the infant is required to wear the helmet for 23 hours each day.
There are a few simple things you can do to help prevent the development of plagiocephaly:
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