Plagiocephaly or Flat Head Syndrome
What is Plagiocephaly?
You may have noticed that your baby’s head looks flat instead of round. This is a very common and easily treated problem called Plagiocephaly or Flat Head Syndrome. Nearly 1 in 2 babies have some degree of flat head.
What are the symptoms of Plagiocephaly?
Your baby will have a flat spot on the side or back of the head. Your baby’s ear alignment and/or facial symmetry maybe be affected as well.
What causes Plagiocephaly?
Babies skulls are soft and can become flattened by the way they were positioned in the mother’s uterus or after birth by spending too much time in one position. Plagiocephaly can occur when babies sleep or spend time during the day with their heads in the same position. The neck muscles of young babies are weak, and they tend to turn their heads to one side when placed on their backs. If they constantly turn their head to the same side, the skull may become flat on that side and/or on the back.
Is it associated with Torticollis?
Yes, Plagiocephaly is often associated with Torticollis. Torticollis occurs when a side neck muscle gets shortened/tightened. Babies with Torticollis position their heads in a tilted position and/or have a preferred side that they turn their head.
What are the long-term effects of Plagiocephaly?
If the flattening is mild, it may resolve on its own. However, flattening can get worse and may be permanent if it isn’t corrected. It is best to have your baby's head shape evaluated by an expert to see if a custom helmet (cranial remolding orthosis) is needed. It is important to start treatment within the first 6 months when your baby’s head is rapidly growing. Helmet treatment is most successful when it begins between 4 to 6 months.
How do I know if my baby has Plagiocephaly or Torticollis?
Babies are typically diagnosed between 0 – 6 months during well-child checks or you may have brought your baby in with concerns. Your primary care provider may recommend that your baby be seen by our Plagiocephaly team for further evaluation.
What happens during the Plagiocephaly appointment?
We believe in a team approach to our Plagiocephaly treatment to save you from multiple evaluation appointments. Your baby will be examined by a pediatric provider, a pediatric physical therapist and a certified orthotist at the same time. The Plagiocephaly team will provide a comprehensive assessment including examining your baby’s head, taking measurements and determining if a helmet is needed. They can confirm the diagnosis of Plagiocephaly, and rule out craniosynostosis, which is a condition that requires surgery. They will also examine your baby for Torticollis. If a helmet is needed, the scan of your baby’s head, the helmet fitting and helmet follow-up appointments are all conducted by the orthotist.
How is Plagiocephaly treated?
If the team recommends a helmet to correct the head shape, the certified orthotist will take over the care plan involving your baby’s helmet treatment. A custom helmet will be created and fit 2-3 weeks after the evaluation. Head reshaping using a helmet is a safe and effective way to reshape your baby’s head into a more normal round shape. Correction of the head shape occurs by your baby’s growth. The custom helmet provides soft contact against the areas of prominence and leaves space over the areas of flattening. As your child’s head grows, the skull will grow into the open space created in the helmet which will round the shape of the head over time. The helmet is worn 23 hours a day for 3-6 months for best results. The helmet is removed for bathing and cleaning. Follow-up fittings with the orthotist are needed every 2-3 weeks to check the fit of the helmet, make adjustments, and take measurements of your baby’s head.
What to expect during a helmet scan.
If it has been determined that your baby will benefit from a custom helmet, the certified orthotist will take over. A three-dimensional scanner will be used to scan your baby’s head and create a 3-D model. Using the 3-D model, a custom helmet will be created for your baby.
What to expect during a Plagiocephaly helmet fitting appointment:
The helmet fitting appointment will occur approximately 2-3 weeks after the scan is taken. The orthotist will ensure proper fit, discuss care and break-in schedule, and provide instructions for putting on and removing the helmet.
What to expect during follow-up appointments.
Once your baby begins wearing the helmet, follow-up fittings with the orthotist are needed every 2-3 weeks. Your baby’s head grows a lot during the first 12 months so adjustments are needed regularly. During follow up appointments, measurements will be taken and adjustments will be made to the custom helmet. Follow up appointments are at the Rehabilitation Services Clinic.
What if my baby also has Torticollis?
If your baby has torticollis, additional treatment with the Pediatric Physical Therapist may be recommended. All physical therapy appointments are at the Rehabilitation Services clinic.
Why a team approach?
Plagiocephaly treatment is a slow process and can consist of many appointments. We believe in a team approach because it saves you time, driving and unnecessary appointments. During your first appointment, the entire team is there to evaluate your baby saving you from having three different appointments. The team is able to work together to evaluate and diagnose your baby. Our expert team consists of a Northfield Hospital + Clinics - Pediatrician or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, a Northfield Hospital + Clinics - Pediatric Physical Therapist and an Orthotic Care Services - Certified Orthotist.
How do I make an appointment?
Discuss concerns about your baby’s head shape with your primary care provider. Your primary care provider will give you a referral for an appointment with the Plagiocephaly team.
Where is the Plagiocephaly Clinic?
The plagiocephaly clinic is held in the Rehabilitation Services Clinic at 1381 Jefferson Road.
What will insurance pay for Plagiocephaly treatment?
After your insurance company has paid their share, you will receive two bills for the amount you owe: one from Northfield Hospital + Clinics and one from Orthotic Care Services.
Northfield Hospital + Clinics
Your out-of-pocket expenses for therapy are determined by your individual insurance policy. If you have questions about the cost of therapy, call your insurance company and tell them that the therapy is billed as a hospital outpatient service (not clinic/professional) and ask:
- Whether Northfield Hospital is “in network?”
- Whether therapy is a covered service under your policy?
- What your deductible amount is?
- What your co-pay amount is?
- What your coinsurance amount will be?
- What your yearly maximum out of pocket amount is?
Northfield Hospital & Clinics will submit charges for the services you receive to your insurance company. Your insurance company will determine how much of the bill you will pay and how much they will pay. Once that is determined, you will receive a bill from Northfield Hospital & Clinics for the amount you owe.
Orthotic Care Services
We proudly partner with Orthotic Care Services for professional services. The insurance specialist from Orthotic Care Services will verify your insurance coverage for you to make an informed decision about whether to go forward with the custom helmet. Billing for the helmet takes place when the helmet is provided.