Positional Skull Deformity
(Flat Head Syndrome; Plagiocephaly; Brachycephaly; Scaphocephaly)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Positional skull deformity is the flattening of an infant’s head. It is due to continued pressure on one spot of the skull. This causes the head to look distorted. It does not cause problems with brain function or growth.
There are three common types:
Infant’s skulls are softer than those of older children. Pressure on a softer skull can change the shape of the head. This can happen when the head rests in the same position for long periods of time. Young infants have little control over head movement. They may spend long periods of time in the position they are placed in.
Things that raise the risk of positional head deformity in babies are:
Babies with this condition have a flattened spot on one area of the head. Sometimes the face is distorted on the opposite side.
Diagnosis is made by physical exam and appearance.
The goal of treatment is to correct the shape of the baby's head. Options are:
Positional skull deformity may be reduced by:
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Flat head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 11, 2021.
González-Santos J, González-Bernal JJ, et al. Infant cranial deformity: cranial helmet therapy or physiotherapy? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 ;17(7):2612.
Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly (flat head syndrome). NHS Choices website. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/plagiocephaly-brachycephaly. Accessed February 11, 2021.
Positional head deformity. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/positional-head-deformity-15. Accessed February 11, 2021.
Positional plagiocephaly. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital website. Available at: https://www.childrenshospitaloakland.org/main/Positional-Plagiocephaly.aspx. Accessed February 11, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC
Last Updated: 2/11/2021