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Doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado are revolutionizing treatment for infants with plagiocephaly, also known as flat-head syndrome.
The skull deformity, which develops in one-third to one-half of all babies born in the U.S., is an unintended consequence of the Safe to Sleep campaign to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The campaign, which teaches parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs instead of on their tummies, cut SIDS cases by more than half since its launch in 1994, however prolonged pressure on the backs and sides of babies' soft skulls causing instances of deformity.
Children’s Colorado doctors provide innovative 3D technology to help improve patient outcomes, and also suggest physical therapy and an “active counterpositioning” approach, where the baby is placed in the crib or chair in a way that relieves pressure on the flat part of the head (for mild to moderate cases).
“We recommend helmeting only rarely, for deformational plagiocephaly that is either relatively severe or associated with a condition that limits ability to undertake [positional] therapy,” says Dr. Brooke French, plastic and reconstructive surgeon and co-director of the Congenital Craniofacial Surgery Program at Children's Colorado.
Plagiocephaly does not cause developmental delays, however if left untreated, can lead to psychosocial problems for the child and parents. “If there’s a flattening that’s noticeable to everyone, you need to see the doctor,” said Dr. Corbett Wilkinson, pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Colorado.
Read the full article from the January Health issue of 5280.