Brachycephaly is apparent where the cranium is disproportionately wide in relation to its length. This can lead to the forehead being unusually prominent. Brachycephaly can either be symmetrical or asymmetrical.
Plagiocephaly, on the other hand can be recognised by an asymmetrically shaped head which is noticeably flattened on one side. Facial features on the affected side including the forehead, the cheekbone and the shape of the eye’s orbit, may be asymmetrical as well. In more severe cases, you may see jaw misalignment and an imbalance in the positioning of the ears.
Incidences of Brachycephaly and Plagiocephaly
The incidences of both brachycephaly and plagiocephaly have increased dramatically since the 1990s when changes in the guidelines for preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) resulted in infants spending more time supine in their cots. Before the new guidelines, the incidence of Flat Head Syndrome was approximately 1 in 300; afterwards, the incidence jumped to 1 in 60.
Some medical experts estimate that nearly 50 percent of all babies will display signs of brachycephaly and/or plagiocephaly at some point during their infancy. The vast majority of cases resolve on their own without the need for medical intervention.
Causes and Risk Factors
Plagiocephaly can develop in utero during the latter stages of pregnancy because the baby simply has no room to move. This is most likely to occur during a first pregnancy or when the expectant mother is carrying multiples.
Plagiocephaly and other cranial deformities are also commonly seen in conjunction with natural births as the birth canal exerts a moulding pressure on the infant’s head.
After birth, brachycephaly and plagiocephaly can occur when an infant spends too much time in their cot or flat on his or her back, with restricted movement of the head.
Some studies have linked Flat Head Syndrome to learning disabilities and visual, auditory and orthodontic problems when a child reaches school age, but there is no scientific consensus on this.
Proper treatment can significantly improve the shape of an infant’s head. By two years of age, cranial sutures have closed completely in most cases and a child’s skull can no longer be moulded, so early diagnosis is critical. Paediatricians generally screen for Flat Head Syndrome circa five months of age.
When an infant is not yet old enough to move about, treatment consists of frequent repositioning during the day. Once an infant begins to move on his or her own, efforts must be made to encourage the infant to move the head towards the unaffected side. If the flattening persists, then a helmet may be required.
Since 2003 Technology in Motion has been providing treatment for plagiocephaly and brachycephaly (flat head syndrome), conditions which involve the deformation of the head of an infant.
- RSLSteeper Launch Dedicated Service to Treat “Flat Head Syndrome” in Babies (prweb.com)
- Why do people have flat heads (wiki.answers.com)
- ‘Flat Head’ Syndrome in Babies Usually Temporary (nlm.nih.gov)
- Do Babies with Flat Heads Need Helmets? Maybe Not (healthland.time.com)