Baby with Plagiocephaly : Understanding Flat Head Syndrome

Justina Valentine

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Baby with Plagiocephaly

As a parent, ensuring your baby’s health and well-being is a top priority. One of the most concerning conditions for new parents is a baby head deformity, also known as flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly. 

This condition, which is characterized by a flat spot on the back or side of a baby’s head. Plagiocephaly occurs mostly because babies spend most of their time sleeping on their backs. However, one can take precautions to avoid this condition.

In this article, we’ll learn the causes of plagiocephaly and prevention techniques to keep your baby’s head round and healthy. Let’s get started.

What is plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is a condition whereby a baby head develops a flat spot on one side. This usually happens when babies spend a lot of time lying on their backs, particularly while sleeping. The flat spot can make the head appear asymmetrical. And can occasionally cause a condition called Torticollis, in which the neck twists and stiffens.

Babies’ head deformities have two origins:

  1. Prenatal: Inside the mother’s womb
  2. Postnatal: After birth

Plagiocephaly, if left untreated, can affect the development of the baby skull and result in speech, hearing, or vision issues later in life. The right preventative measures and treatments can usually correct plagiocephaly and improve the shape of the head

Plagiocephaly Causes in babies?

A baby’s head shape or deformity can be caused by several factors. The following are, however, some of the most common causes:

  • Position in the womb: A flat spot on the head can develop if a baby spends a long time in one position in the womb. Such as; the head bent forward or pressed against the uterus. This is referred to as “positional plagiocephaly.”
  • Delivery method: The shape of the baby’s head may change during a vaginal delivery as it passes through the birth canal. The use of forceps or vacuum extraction, in particular, can result in a misshapen head.
  • Craniosynostosis: This is a condition in which the sutures (joints between bones) in a baby’s skull fuse too soon. This can cause the skull to grow in an abnormal shape, resulting in a head deformity.
  • Torticollis: When the neck muscles on one side become tight, the head will tilt or turn to one side. This can cause a flat spot on the side or back of the head.
  • Hydrocephalus: Hydrocephalus is characterized by an excessive buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain’s ventricles. This causes elevated pressure and swelling making the head to have a misshapen appearance.

Treating or correcting head deformities is possible with the right interventions, such as physical therapy, helmet therapy, or surgery. By encouraging healthy head and neck positioning during the first year of life, parents can help prevent many of these conditions

What are fontanelles in babies?

In the early years of life, a baby’s head has soft areas called fontanelles that allow the skull to develop and become more flexible. The anterior (or frontal) fontanelle and the posterior (or occipital) fontanelle are the two primary fontanelles present in newborn babies.

Baby with plagiocephaly

When you gently press the top of the head, you can feel the anterior fontanelle. It is situated at the top of the forehead in front of the head and is normally diamond-shaped. As the skull’s bones fuse, the anterior fontanelle usually closes between the ages of 9 and 18 months.

At the back of the head, there is a smaller fontanelle called the posterior fontanelle. It usually closes during the baby’s first few months of life.

In addition, fontanelles are normal and have a significant impact on how a baby’s skull develops and grows. To accommodate the rapid brain growth that takes place in the first few years of life, fontanelle enable the skull’s bones to move and slightly overlap one another.

You can, however, check out for sudden changes in the size or shape of fontanelles as they can be signs of a problem, such as an infection or elevated intracranial pressure, even though fontanelles are normal..

How to prevent Plagiocephaly in baby

Tummy time

Most cases of Plagiocephaly in babies are due to postnatal causes. It is caused by the positions that the newborn adopts when sleeping. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent head deformities in babies:

  • Encourage tummy time: While they are awake and under supervision, encourage your baby to spend time on their belly. This will aid in avoiding the development of flat spots on the side or back of the head.
  • Alternate the direction your baby faces: When your baby is lying down, try to alternate the direction they face to prevent flat spots from developing on one side of the head.
  • Avoid prolonged periods in car seats, swings, and other equipment: Try to limit the amount of time your baby spends in car seats, swings, and other equipment, as these can put pressure on the back of the head and cause a flat spot to develop.
  • Reposition your baby’s head while they sleep: When your baby is sleeping, try to alternate the direction they face to help prevent flat spots from developing on one side of the head.
  • Promote healthy head and neck positioning: When you’re holding your baby, try to support their head and neck to help promote healthy positioning.
  • Avoid the use of restrictive headwear: Avoid using restrictive headwear, such as tight-fitting caps or helmets, unless they are medically necessary.

    Remember that proper interventions can often treat or correct head deformities in babies. Your doctor may recommend physiotherapy exercises to improve head shape. Once medical professionals diagnose the condition, parents can take an active role in helping their child’s condition improve.

    Diagnosis of Plagiocephaly

    A physical examination and a review of the baby’s medical records will be necessary to diagnose a head deformity in babies. The doctor may also use any of the diagnostic methods below:

    • Physical examination: This is the most common method of diagnosis, whereby the doctor examines the baby’s head and neck for any asymmetry, flattening, or irregularities.
    • Imaging tests: Doctors may use imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans to assess the bones and structure of the baby’s skull and detect any cranial abnormalities such as craniosynostosis.
    • Neurological examination: The doctor may carry out a neurological examination to assess the baby’s reflexes, muscle tone, and general growth.
    • Review of the baby’s medical records: To identify any potential risk factors for head deformities, the doctor may also look at the baby’s medical history. This includes the pregnancy, delivery, and post-delivery growth.

    In some cases, the doctor might suggest or transfer the baby to a specialist that treats plagiocephaly. Such as a pediatric neurosurgeon or plastic surgeon for more evaluation and treatment.

    However, it is best to treat babies with head deformities at an early age for a better outcome.

    Plagiocephaly treatments In babies

    The type and severity of a baby’s head deformity determines the course of treatment. Doctors can treat infants with head deformities using non-surgical or surgical methods..

    Nonsurgical treatments:

    Baby with Plagiocephaly helmet
    Plagiocephaly Helmet

    In mild cases of head deformities, doctors may suggest non-surgical treatments to help reshape the head. Some of these treatments consist of:

    • Cranial remolding orthosis (helmet therapy): This is a custom-made helmet that gently reshapes the head as the baby grows. The baby wears the helmet or 23 hours a day and is remove for bathing and feeding.
    • Physical therapy: This may include exercises to help improve neck strength and control, as well as techniques to reposition the head and improve head shape.
    • Positional molding: This involves placing the baby in specific positions to encourage proper head shape.

    Surgical treatments:

    In more severe cases of head deformities, surgery may be recommended. Some of the most common surgical treatments include:

    • Craniosynostosis surgery: This is a surgery done to treat cranial synostosis. It involves undoing the premature fusion of one or more sutures (joints) in the skull. The surgeon will remove the fused suture and reshape the skull to allow for healthy growth.
    • Skull reshaping surgery: A surgery to reshape the skull and enhance head shape. The procedure may also involve removing or reshaping bones, and may use bone grafts.

    It’s important to note that treating infant head deformities requires a team of specialists, including a pediatrician, a neurosurgeon, and a plastic surgeon. Determining the best course of action will depend on the specific needs and individual circumstances of each child.

    Final thought 

    For many parents, plagiocephaly can be a source of worry. But it’s important to keep in mind that early intervention and treatment can help to prevent or minimize potential long-term issues.

    Although repositioning or the use of a corrective helmet can treat some types of head deformities with straightforward steps. It is still important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

    If you have any concerns about the shape or deformity of your baby’s head, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor. They are in the best position to evaluate your baby and provide treatment recommendations for plagiocephaly, if necessary.

    By providing the right care and attention, you can help your baby thrive and overcome any obstacles caused by a head deformity.

    For more articles just like this; Visit A Mom And More.


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