Plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis are both conditions that result in skull deformities. Because of this they are often confused, but there are a number of key features that define each one as distinct from the other. Here we outline the difference between plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis to help give you an idea of their distinguishing features.
Key Differences Between Plagiocephaly and Craniosynostosis
While craniosynostosis is an extremely rare condition affecting just three in 10,000 live births, plagiocephaly is much more common. Research shows that the incidence of some degree of plagiocephaly in infants is almost as high as 50%, of which approximately 4% are severe.
Because babies’ motor skills are developmentally still fairly weak, they are unable to change their head position easily so they spend a long time lying and playing with their head in the same position. This can cause the bony plates in the skull to remould and become deformed over time. Unless this resting position is varied the deformity will not self-correct and this can leave the affected child with a misshapen head. By using a flat head helmet, this will allow the head shape to grow back to a corrected, normal shape, bringing about a permanent correction.
In cases where the resulting head shape is asymmetrical, this is known as plagiocephaly. Related conditions include brachycephaly, where the head is unusually wide in relation to its front to back length, and scaphocephaly, where the head is abnormally long and narrow.
What is Craniosynostosis?
Craniosynostosis is also characterised by deformation of the skull, but there’s a crucial difference. While plagiocephaly and other related cephalic disorders result from external moulding, craniosynostosis comes about largely as a result of internal events. As a baby is born, the sutures between the plates of their skull are soft and flexible to allow for a natural birth. The sutures remain open and flexible during infancy so the brain can fully develop. They will then slowly strengthen and become more rigid to form the firm, protective skull.
When a baby has craniosynostosis, the sutures fuse together prematurely which prevents the skull from growing properly and leads to a misshapen head. This happens because the fused suture(s) prevent normal growth in one area causing compensating growth in another to allow the brain to develop naturally. For a detailed list of signs and symptoms to look out for in regards to craniosynostosis, please read our dedicated page for more information and help on how to define the condition.
Since craniosynostosis is caused by fusion of sutures within the skull rather than by external moulding, it can currently only be treated with surgery. However, the recent publication of pioneering research, detailed in our blog post is the cause of craniosynostosis being unlocked, points towards a stem cell breakthrough founded by researchers at the University of Rochester and their revolutionary study which has the power to transform how craniosynostosis can be treated in the future.
How Can Craniosynotosis be Treated?
At Technology in Motion, we have over 100 babies undergoing flat head syndrome treatment at any one time. While we are unable to treat craniosynostosis, we are able to help you decide if this is the reason for the deformity and we will refer you to a GP for further investigation by a neurosurgeon or craniofacial team.
However, we do offer helmet treatment for those infants who have had surgery known as an endoscopic strip craniectomy or craniotomy. In order to provide post-surgery care to help your baby’s head shape grow into a normalised shape, we use a cranial helmet to help remould the head. These work in the same way that flat head helmets work, following the same process as those who use the helmets for plagiocephaly, brachycephaly and other types of flat head syndrome.
Remember, the most important thing with both plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis is early detection and following a diagnosis from a healthcare professional, begin treatment as early as possible before deformation becomes permanent.
If you would like to arrange an appointment, call us today on 0330 100 1800 or contact our experienced team for further advice on what you should do next.