Plagiocephaly is a form of ‘flat head syndrome’, where your baby has an asymmetry of the head shape. Typically one side of the head is flatter than the other. ‘Plagio’ comes from the Greek, meaning ‘slanting’ or ‘oblique’.
At about eight weeks of age, you may notice that your baby’s head seems slightly wide, that an ear is pushed forward on one side or that the brow is more prominent on one side.
Typically, babies with Plagiocephaly develop a ‘parallelogram-shaped’ skull, with flattening of back of the left or right side of the skull, frontal bossing on the same side as the flattening and bulging on the opposite side at the back. There is sometimes a tendency to only look in one direction, as the neck muscles may be tighter on this side. This is called Torticollis and may require therapy to help correct it.
Plagiocephaly tends to appear in the early months of your baby’s life, when the skull is still very soft. The skull can start to flatten because your baby may sleeping on the same position of the head every night. PLEASE NOTE: It is important that you must place your baby to sleep on its back at night, as this has been proved to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The majority of infants who experience Plagiocephaly go on to progress normally and meet their expected developmental milestones. In severe cases the head shape will not have time to resolve fully and if not treated they will probably retain some continuing deformity.
Parents typically notice an asymmetry or flattening of their infants’ skulls at 2 to 3 months of age and diagnosis is typically made at this time.
Typically, there is a parallelogram shaped skull, with flattening towards the back of either the left or right hand side. There may also be some facial and brow asymmetry on the same side as the flattening. In severe cases there can also be some bulging on the opposite side at the back and the back of the head can look as if it’s been pushed to one side.
Parents who notice that their baby has Plagiocephaly may speak to their Health Visitor or doctor who will usually reassure that the condition is not serious. The decision as to whether treatment is required or not is determined by the severity of the condition and most doctors in the UK will not recommend treatment. However, severity can range from a mild flattening with no facial deformations to significant asymmetry with secondary facial asymmetry, ear displacement and cheek deformation.
Plagiocephaly severity is based upon visual inspection and measurement of your baby’s skull. If the head shape is not typical of a deformational Plagiocephaly we may ask for further investigations to confirm that all the sutures (flexible joints between the head bones) are open and able to move If they are not, this is called a synostosis and can occur in one or more of the sutures between the cranial bones in which case surgery is required to correct this.
We take three groups of measurements, circumference, width and length, and diagonal lengths. Severity is determined by the extent to which these measurements deviate from the normal in the population. From the normal standard deviation chart, we recommend that the most severe 1% and the 4% in the moderate range should be treated.
If you are concerned about your baby’s head shape and wish to have this checked out, we offer a specialist service that includes plagiocephaly diagnosis, advice and treatment. Call us on 0113 218 8030 to arrange an appointment, or for more information on the diagnosis and measurement of plagiocephaly.
We will start a treatment using a TiMband from the age four months, but there are lots of things that you can do to prevent and improve the head shape before this time. To compliment treatment and to help prevent in the first place, we recommend repositioning, – such as turning your baby on the tummy during playtime – to give the head an opportunity to return to a more normal shape naturally. We do not treat every baby that we see and over 20% only need advice and reassurance.
If you have tried repositioning and your baby is over four or five months old with no obvious signs of improvement, we advise that you consider using a TiMband, our unique treatment and management system. our unique treatment and management system.
Plagiocephaly and Neuromuscular Development
Parent often ask us about the normal development of their baby and we must say that the majority of the infants that we see are developing perfectly normally with good responses. As infants grow, they begin to reposition themselves naturally as their muscles become stronger and they start to gain more control. There is some research to indicate that infants with plagiocephaly develop some of their fine motor skills later than others, but these differences are subtle and not easily measured.
When babies begin to roll over independently at 5 to 6 months of age we recommend that parents continue to put them on their backs to sleep. However, at this stage they may be allowed to move into the position that suits them most without constantly having to be repositioned onto their backs.
Generally speaking, once an infant is able to sit and roll independently at about 5 months of age, it is doubtful that the plagiocephaly will get any worse. However, you might find that your baby prefers to continue sleeping with pressure on the flattened area, in which case further intervention may be required in order to prevent the deformity from becoming permanent – especially if this is moderate or severe.
If your baby has a tight neck muscle on one side, this is a muscular disorders called Torticollis, we can help with advice to improve this as can a paediatric Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Chiropractor who will also help with advice on exercises to improve the range of motion.
Find the right treatment
If this is the case, then our qualified specialists can offer the best advice and treatment to reduce this head shape deformity.
We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions which will help you to understand more about Plagiocephaly and other variants of flat head syndrome. We also have a selection of case studies and testimonials that provide an insight into our treatments, or you can read about parents’ first-hand experiences on our Facebook page.
If you have any question, then we would love to hear from you. Simply Call us on 0330 100 1800 (local rate) or 0113 218 8030.