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What is scaphocephaly?

Scaphocephaly is the term used to describe a long thin head shape and this is usually a result of a premature fusion of the sagittal suture which runs front to back over the top of the head. This usually shows as a ridge and it's a type of craniosynostosis which can only be treated by an operation to release the affected suture. There can also be a high and wide brow and an overdeveloped occiput at the back of the head. Once the suture is released, depending on the type of operation, a helmet may be used to allow the head shape to grow back into normality. 

Dolichocephaly is another word that describes a long thin head shape and this is usually associated with premature birth. This usually self corrects as the infant starts to sit and roll.


What are the typical symptoms?

Scaphocephaly is characterised by a long and narrow head shape, a ridged appearance on the top of the head, and sometimes a pointed back of the head. The baby might also have a prominent forehead.

Why does it happen to babies?

Scaphocephaly is usually caused by a craniosynostosis and this may be linked to genetic factors.

Recommended treatments

If the scaphocephaly is a result of craniosynostosis, it can only be treated by operation and, if appropriate, remoulding using a helmet. 

If this is a result of dolichocephaly from post natal moulding, a plagiocephaly (asymmetry) might also be present and this can be helped by repositioning for infants under 4 months of age, or by helmet treatment if the deformity is not self resolving.

Repositioning and Tummy Time:

Repositioning and tummy time are the first recommended courses of treatment. This simply means frequently changing the baby’s position, whether sitting or lying down, and encouraging babies to play or lie on their stomachs so that there isn’t too much pressure applied to any one part of the head.

Read more about repositioning and tummy time
Helmet Therapy:

More severe cases of scaphocephaly may require helmet therapy to correct. Cranial remoulding helmets work by applying gentle pressure to the baby’s head in the areas that need to grow. The helmets are custom-made to fit the baby’s head and are adjusted regularly to ensure they are fitting properly. By applying this pressure, the helmet can encourage growth in the flattened areas and help to reshape the baby’s head.

Read more about cranial helmets.

How to get assessed

If you are concerned about your baby’s head shape, book a free pre-assessment and our clinicians can advise you on the best course of treatment for your child.

Need more advice? Visit our support page for more information.

Our experts are happy to answer all your questions and provide the best solutions.