Plagiocephaly is a complex condition that affects each baby differently. The length of time needed for correction varies between individuals, but this can usually be predicted by a few factors. This post uncovers all and will help you to find out how long it takes to correct plagiocephaly.
How Long Will a Baby Wear a Plagiocephaly Helmet For?
Two factors have been identified to correlate with the duration of plagiocephaly treatment, as discovered by Larson.
These factors are the age of the infant at the start of treatment and the severity of the deformity. In turn, these influential factors also affect the degree to which treatment is successful. This means that starting treatment when a baby is within the optimal age range not only reduces the time needed for correction but also enhances the effectiveness of treatment.
Optimum Age to Treat Plagiocephaly
The American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report (2003) on the Prevention and Management of Positional Skull Deformities in Infants indicates that the best results can be achieved when plagiocephaly treatment is started at 4-12 months. The reason for this is that the bones in the skull are still malleable at this age, and also due to the normalising effect of rapid brain growth during this period.
Here at Technology in Motion, we start treatment up to the age of 14 months as there is still adequate growth to soften and normalise a severe head shape.
Larson found the optimum age for starting treatment to be 4-8 months of age. Whilst also agreeing that treatment can still be effective later on, he reports two challenges faced by practitioners treating plagiocephaly at 8-12 months. The first is an increased chance that a second helmet will be required to achieve a full correction, and the second is an increased chance of fitting issues.
However, since the report, modifications and manufacturing methods have radically improved and we don't have these issues at all. We very rarely fit a second helmet and never do so after 14 months of age.
None of this information is to say that parents should avoid seeking treatment altogether if their baby is more than eight months old. A good degree of correction can still be reached at up to 14 months. The main downfall is that there is less time for correction, meaning that a severe condition may not fully improve to complete symmetry.
It's only after 14 months of age that plagiocephaly treatment becomes notably less effective as the bones of the skull begin to harden, growth slows down, and the infant starts to become more aware.
Effect of Severity on Time it Takes to Correct Plagiocephaly
There is a definite correlation between the severity of plagiocephaly and the time needed to correct a head shape deformity. Patients with severe plagiocephaly tend to take longer to treat, and are less likely to achieve a fully normalised head shape than those with moderate plagiocephaly. However, a full correction can be achieved if treatment is started early on.
Other Factors Affecting Plagiocephaly Helmet Treatment Time
Compliance with Treatment Protocol
The extent of plagiocephaly correction understandably relies heavily on parents and practitioners complying with treatment protocol. It is essential that babies wear their corrective helmet for 22-23 hours a day after gradually introducing a baby to this. It's also important that the helmet is adjusted if necessary at progress appointments.
Failure to follow these strategies can delay treatment progress and extend the duration of time of treatment.
Resolved cases of torticollis shouldn't have an effect on treatment time. For babies with unresolved cases or same-side sleeping patterns, this can impact on plagiocephaly treatment and lengthen the time needed for a complete correction.
So, how long will a baby wear a plagiocephaly helmet for? In summary, treatment time is usually 3-6 months, but the time depends on:
• The age of the baby at the start of treatment
• The severity of the head shape deformity
• Compliance with treatment protocols
• The presence or absence of torticollis
The most important thing to note is that, if you are considering a plagiocephaly helmet, you should arrange an appointment as soon as possible. The earlier the treatment is started, the quicker, easier, and more effective it will be. Especially if the deformity is severe.
As plagiocephaly specialists, we aim to ensure a quick and easy process to give optimal results. We take the time to advise all parents on treatment protocols and will always be at the other end of the phone if you have an appointment.