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The term “plagiocephaly” may sound alarming when you first hear it in reference to your child—but the good news is that plagiocephaly (which is also sometimes called deformational plagiocephaly or positional plagiocephaly) is actually a very common, very treatable disorder. While it causes a flattened appearance in a baby’s head or face, plagiocephaly has no known medical repercussions.
Plagiocephaly develops when an infant’s rapidly growing head attempts to expand, and meets some type of resistance— either prenatally in the mother’s womb, or after delivery because the baby’s head is pressed against a bed or other flat resting surface. This is analogous to how a stationary pumpkin develops a flat spot in a field: Since it cannot grow into the ground, it conforms to that shape.
How Boston Children's Hospital approaches plagiocephaly
When you first receive your child's diagnosis, dozens of questions may spring to mind: How serious is plagiocephaly? Will my child need surgery? Is he at risk for neurological problems? How will this impact our family?
Rest assured: there is no convincing evidence that plagiocephaly has any effect on a child’s brain development, vision or hearing. Even the facial asymmetry caused by the condition seems to improve as a baby grows. The only lasting effect is on the shape of the infant’s head.
Here at Children’s Hospital Boston, we have a long and distinguished history of approaching plagiocephaly and various types of brain and skull malformations that affect newborns, infants and older children. Experts in our Departments of Neurosurgery and Plastic Surgery may work together to diagnose, treat and follow up children and families affected by plagiocephaly and other craniofacial anomalies. We are even able to diagnose some of these problems while babies are still in the womb.
Children’s clinicians strive to help parents recognize that plagiocephaly is a very treatable condition with entirely cosmetic effects. Experience has taught us that most children with this disorder respond very well to non-surgical, minimally invasive interventions like:
Our neurosurgical and plastic surgery experts work closely with other specialists across the hospital to develop a customized treatment approach that meets all of your child's physical, emotional and social needs—a care plan that involves you and your family every step of the way.
Reviewed by John G. Meara, MD, DMD, MBA and Bonnie Padwa, MD, PhD
© Children’s Hospital Boston, posted in 2011
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