Pediatric Plagiocephaly

What is Pediatric Plagiocephaly?

Positional or deformational plagiocephaly (play-GEE-oh-sef-alee) is the most common cause of an abnormal head shape. This is most often caused by the position of the baby’s head both in the womb, as well as shortly after birth. These babies are most often born with a flat area on one side of the back of their head.  

All newborn babies have poor control of their head. If they have a flat area on the back of their skull, they will come to rest on the flatter area when they are laid on their back to sleep. Lying on the flatter side can cause it to continue to become flatter, because the skull will grow away from the flat spot that is supporting the weight of the head. This worsening of the head shape is expected to continue for the first four months of life, until these babies are able to lift and control their heads better. A molding helmet may be used to help correct the head shape if the head shape is:

  • Very abnormal
  • Not improving rapidly by age 6 months

A helmet works by harnessing the rapid growth of the skull. It guides the skull growth in the direction of the abnormal flatness for a rounder shape.

The differences between positional plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis

  • Craniosynostosis continues to get worse throughout infancy because the suture is permanently closed.
  • Position-dependent changes will typically worsen until age 4 months and then get better over time as the babies improve their head control and are able to roll over because the sutures are open and will continue to grow equally.
  • Craniosynostosis increases the risk of abnormally high pressure on the brain.
  • Position-dependent changes do not affect the health of the brain.

Tummy time

Download and learn a parent's guide about the importance of tummy time and how it's beneficial for your child.

Pediatric Plagiocephaly Doctors and Providers