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:
Plagiocephaly—flattening on one side of the back of the head
Brachycephaly—equal flattening on both sides of the back of the head
Scaphocephaly—equal flattening of both sides of the head (more common in premature infants)
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:
Sleeping or laying in the same position
Head tilting to one side—torticollis
Weak muscles that prevent the head from turning
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:
Changing the baby's position often—to relieve pressure on the affected part of the skull
Physical therapy—to strengthen the baby's neck muscles
A helmet—to help reshape the head
Positional skull deformity may be reduced by:
Changing the baby's head position from left to right at night
Letting the baby spend 30 to 60 minutes a day on his or her stomach
Limiting the amount of time a baby spends in car seats and swings.
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