Scanning a Baby's Head vs Manual Measurement | TiM

Scanning a Baby’s Head vs Manual Measurement

Scanning a Baby’s Head vs Manual Measurement

Plagiocephaly, a condition characterised by the asymmetrical shape of a baby’s head, has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. While it is sometimes harmless and can correct itself naturally, severe cases may require intervention. When determining the most appropriate treatment, healthcare professionals have traditionally relied on manual measuring techniques. However, advancements in medical imaging technology now offer a more accurate and comprehensive approach to assessing and treating plagiocephaly.

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of scanning babies with plagiocephaly to determine treatment and manual measuring methods.


Parents rarely bring a baby to us because of measurements, but mainly because they are concerned about their baby’s head shape and are looking for answers on the severity and whether their baby would benefit from treatment.

To quantify the shape and help parents and the clinician to come to a decision on whether to treat, we take five measurements.  These are:

  • Circumference using a tape.
  • A calliper front to back length,
  • Calliper side to side width
  • Two diagonal measurements from the corner of the eye to the opposite diagonal ‘corner’.

An image showing a babys Two diagonal measurements from the corner of the eye to the opposite diagonal corner


These are just one-dimensional point measurements and along with the clinician’s assessment, they give enough information to assist in making an informed decision on whether to recommend treatment.

If parents decide to allow us to proceed with treatment for their baby, we need an accurate full head scan to successfully make a TiMbandAir. We take a very accurate 3D scan of the surface shape of the baby’s head, modify this shape and use the corrected shape to make a helmet on. This is precise and we know exactly and how much to adjust the shape within well designed protocols.

a photo showing two 3d scans of a baby's head

But remember, the human body has no straight lines or regular curves, it’s also covered in with a variable thickness and variable hardness soft covering of skin, muscle and body fat (or adipose tissue if you prefer 😉).

Why do you only take hand measures and not a scan in clinic to monitor treatment?

We only need to monitor treatment and hand measurements are more than enough to show the changes that have occurred between appointments and the progress made.

If a scan is so much more accurate, aren’t these measurements better?  

More information is not necessarily better information and it can be confusing. In fact using scan measurements can be really puzzling for parents. If the alignment isn’t exactly the same in both scans, differences even by 1 degree or 1mm change the measurements. As you track up and down the shape the measurements change significantly even within a few millimetres. On a growing baby we also find that the alignment points change and it’s not unusual to see 10mm circumferential growth in a month on a little one.

Measurements only give an indication in one dimension across two points of a variable three-dimensional object. Clinically, this is more than enough and at the end of treatment we always offer a second scan so that the parents can see and compare the overall shape improvement between the start and end of treatment.  Top down photographs also can show the changes just as well and parents often take these themselves.

I’ll come back to the start, it’s always how the head shape looks, not how it measures and we can improve the shape very quickly.

I hope that this blog has given you answers as to why scanning head shape deformities is not necessarily the best way to gather the information that we need and reassured you that when we need it, we will scan, otherwise it’s not necessary and our clinicians have the experience to monitor your baby’s progress appropriately.

Infants that are post operative for craniosynostosis though. That’s a different story for another day…….

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