Children's Hospital Colorado

Positional Plagiocephaly

What is positional plagiocephaly?

Positional plagiocephaly, also known as deformational plagiocephaly, is a condition in which one side of the back of a baby's head is flattened. It is different from lambdoid craniosynostosis in that there is no associated early suture fusion and the physical findings are distinct. Positional plagiocephaly does not affect brain development and is of cosmetic and psychosocial concern only.

Who gets positional plagiocephaly?

There are many factors that can contribute to flattening of the back of the head in a baby. These factors can have an effect either prenatally or after birth. Babies with less room in utero are more prone to positional plagiocephaly. This crowding can be due to multiple babies (twins, triplets, etc.) or a condition of the uterus (fibroids). Premature babies are at an increased risk of deformation due to external forces because their skull bones are softer.

Babies may have a positional preference in one direction or the other, meaning that s/he may simply keep the head turned one way most of the time. This can lead to flattening on this side. In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that healthy term infants be placed supine (lying on the back) for sleep. The Back to Sleep Campaign resulted in a reduction in the risk of Sudden Infant Death. However, the incidence of posterior positional plagiocephaly increased. The positional preference may also be due to torticollis (tight neck muscles) or visual problems.

Get to know our pediatric experts.

Jonathan Roach, MD

Jonathan Roach, MD

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Jennifer Bruny, MD

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