What is Positional Plagiocephaly
Positional Plagiocephaly, also called Flat Head Syndrome, is common among newborns and older babies. This flat spot on the back of the baby’s head is often the result of the baby laying on its back for a long period of time without shifting the position of its head.
In many cases, the positional plagiocephaly will go away on its own after a few months. For most babies with positional plagiocephaly, there are no facial defects or negative impact to brain development.
There are severe cases of positional plagiocephaly that only go away with medical treatment. This is called congenital Positional Plagiocephaly. Some of these more serious cases of positional plagiocephaly can include the following symptoms:
- Mis-matching ears
- Flat areas of the head
- An uneven forehead
- Bony ridges throughout the head
- Asymmetrical facial features
To diagnose this condition, your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner will check your child’s head for features like:
Two sides of the face that do not match each other (asymmetry)
Your child’s healthcare provider will also check your child’s development. Some children with this condition have mild developmental delays. Read about Seattle Children’s research into the link between delayed development and positional plagiocephaly.
Positional plagiocephaly can sometimes look like a condition called craniosynostosis. These conditions need very different kinds of treatment. Our team is experienced in looking for the signs that help us tell these conditions apart.
Treating Positional Plagiocephaly
Positional Plagiocephaly can be easily treated and prevented by the careful monitoring of your bay’s sleeping position. Keeping your baby active and sitting upright in your lap will change the position of their head and keep the baby from resting on one particular side of their head for long periods of time.
Those with Congenital Plagiocephaly or those with severe Positional Plagiocephaly will require some sort of treatment.
The most common treatment for severe Positional Plagiocephaly and Conditional Plagiocephaly is helmet therapy.
With helmet therapy, a child (who is older than 6 months of age) is fitted with a tightly fitting helmet he or she is to wear most of the day and night. The length of helmet therapy will be determined on the severity of the flatness of the child’s head. Most children wear a helmet for 4-5 months before their flat spot disappears.
For certain extenuating circumstances, surgery may be required.
It is common for babies to have flat spots on their heads as their bones are growing and developing. Positional Plagiocephaly isn’t a cause of concern unless the flatness of the head doesn’t go away and more serious conditions, such as facial deformities, occur.
At the Cleft & Craniofacial Institute of Utah, we diagnose and recommend individualized treatment for each Positional and Congenital Plagiocephaly case.
Untreated Positional Plagiocephaly
While the majority of Positional Plagiocephaly cases resolve itself and doesn’t require medical treatment, serious conditions can occur with cases of Congenital Plagiocephaly if left untreated. Unlike Positional Plagiocephaly, Congenital Plagiocephaly is caused by the premature fusion of skull bones. Some of the conditions associated with Congenital Plagiocephaly include:
- Possible severe, permanent head deformities
- Increased pressure inside the head on the brain
- Developmental delays
These and the possible psychological conditions can occur in individuals with untreated Congenital Plagiocephaly.
If your child’s head flat spot doesn’t go away on its own after a few months, contact the Cleft & Craniofacial Institute of Utah. Your child may have a severe case of Positional Plagiocephaly or have Congenital Plagiocephaly and medical treatment may be necessary.