Craniosynostosis is a condition characterised by the premature fusion of cranial sutures in infants, affecting approximately 1 in 2,500 births. While surgery is an effective treatment option, post-operative care plays a crucial role in promoting optimal outcomes. One such post-surgical intervention is the use of cranial helmets, specifically designed for babies who have undergone an endoscopic strip craniectomy. In this blog, we explore the benefits of wearing a cranial helmet after craniosynostosis surgery and provide valuable information for concerned parents.
Craniosynostosis surgery explained
Traditional treatment for craniosynostosis involved open cranial vault reconstruction surgery. This type of surgery manually removes the suture and remodels the skull shape. However, it can carry risks such as excessive blood loss and extended hospital stays. Nonetheless, advancements in medical techniques have led to the adoption of a safer and less invasive approach called endoscopic strip craniectomy, followed by a cranial remoulding orthosis.
Benefits of Post-surgical cranial helmets
Promotes proper skull development
Wearing a cranial helmet after surgery allows the head to expand naturally while correcting any misshapen or asymmetrical features. By providing consistent pressure to specific areas, the helmet assists in promoting a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing skull shape.
Enhances brain development
The cranial helmet creates sufficient space for the developing brain to grow and expand within the newly opened sutures. This supportive environment aids in optimal brain development.
Reduces cranial pressure
By distributing support evenly throughout the head, the helmet helps reduce localised pressure points. This feature can potentially minimise discomfort and enhance overall comfort.
Prevents further deformities
Acting as a protective barrier, the cranial helmet shields the delicate skull from accidental bumps or falls during a child’s early years. This protection can help prevent additional deformities or injuries.
Enhances psychological well-being
The helmet serves as a visible reminder of the ongoing healing process, instilling confidence and reassurance in both the child and their caregivers. It promotes a positive mindset and emotional well-being during the recovery journey.
Customised and non-invasive treatment
Each cranial helmet is custom-made based on the individual child’s head shape and specific treatment needs. The non-invasive nature of the helmet allows for continued comfort and ease of use, ensuring that the child can engage in daily activities without significant limitations.
Treatment centres for craniosynostosis
In the UK, there are four specialist NHS centres for craniosynostosis. Technology in Motion works in partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Birmingham NHS Women and Children’s Trust, and the Oxford Craniofacial Unit Team. These specialist units treat infants aged 4-6 months with craniosynostosis, emphasising earlier intervention and reduced need for invasive surgery. While the NHS does not provide cranial orthotic helmets, these units refer patients to Technology in Motion to provide post-operative helmets and ensure successful treatment and ongoing monitoring for up to 2 years.
Why can’t I get my baby’s craniosynostosis helmet on the NHS?
Currently, the NHS does not offer cranial orthotic helmets, even for craniosynostosis cases. However, specialist cranial surgeons increasingly opt for safer and less invasive surgeries, often complemented by post-operative helmets. In the absence of NHS provisions, clinicians from NHS trusts partner with Technology in Motion to privately provide post-surgical helmets. These partnerships involve sharing clinical research, information, and effective strategies to improve care.
Why Technology in Motion advocates for change
Post-operative cranial helmets offer numerous benefits for infants with craniosynostosis. They promote proper skull development, enhance brain growth, reduce cranial pressure, prevent further deformities, and contribute to psychological well-being. While the NHS currently does not provide these helmets, collaborations between specialist units and private providers like Technology in Motion ensure access to high-quality post-surgical care. By raising awareness and sharing knowledge, we strive to advocate for change and expand the availability of these beneficial treatments for all affected children and their families.
Craniosynostosis is a rare condition requiring surgery so it is very important that you seek medical advice if you suspect your baby may have craniosynostosis. If you are not sure what to do, get in touch and we will do what we can to help. While our clinicians cannot medically diagnose craniosynostosis, they can provide general advice and outline the steps for obtaining a referral to a specialist clinic where you can.