Plagiocephaly | Diagnosis and Treatment

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Contact the Cleft and Craniofacial Center

How is plagiocephaly diagnosed?

A trained clinician can usually diagnose the condition with a physical exam and medical history. In most cases, there is no need to order tests.

What are the treatment options for plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is most often treated with one or more non-surgical methods.

Position changes

Changing your baby’s sleeping and resting positions can help your baby from increasing pressure on an already flattened area of the head. Your clinician may recommend:

  • having your baby spend some play time on his or her tummy
  • changing your baby’s head position when sleeping on his or her back
  • ensuring he or she doesn’t spend too much time lying down while awake 

Exercises

Many infants with plagiocephaly — especially those born with muscular torticollis, an imbalance of the neck muscles — will benefit from certain neck exercises. Your clinician may recommend a pediatric physical therapist to teach you these exercises.

The Plagio Cradle

The Plagio Cradle was developed at Boston Children's for use in infants age 3 months and younger. It is the only device proven to both reduce existing flattening and to prevent flattening in babies who are at high risk, such as those born prematurely or with muscular torticollis.

The Plagio Cradle is placed under a baby's head whenever he or she is lying on his or her back. It supports the neck and creates a hollowed space that gradually reshapes the baby’s head, allowing it to grow correctly over time.

Corrective helmet

Corrective helmets have been in use since 1979 to safely and successfully treat plagiocephaly. Helmets are most effective in infants from 4 to 8 months old who have moderate flattening. The helmet is a lightweight plastic shell with a foam liner. It acts as a brace to redirect the growth of the baby's skull. Helmets must be prescribed and carefully monitored by a licensed physician. As your baby grows, the helmet will need periodic adjustments.

A helmet does not squeeze the baby's skull, but gently helps correct the shape of the head. To get the most benefit from the helmet, most babies need to wear it 21 to 23 hours a day for about 3 to 6 months.

It's also important to note that very few people have perfectly round heads. Even when treated with a helmet, your child’s head probably won't be perfectly round.

Expert care for plagiocephaly

Here at Boston Children’s Hospital, experts in our Departments of Neurosurgery, Plastic Surgery and Physical Therapy work together to diagnose and treat children with plagiocephaly.

Helpful links

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