Many times, the term “Plagiocephaly” is used generically to refer to positional head deformities because it is the most common type. You have probably also heard of “Flathead Syndrome”. This term covers many childhood medical conditions with very different origins, and therefore, different influences on the formation of the baby’s head. In this section we talk about the different types of positional head deformities and their main characteristics, but we also want to show you how they differ from other medical conditions (craniosynostosis) since, at first glance, they can be confused.
It is the most common positional head deformity and is characterised by the flattening of one side of the head at the back.
It usually appears as a consequence of sleeping on the back, with the head always turning on the same side, which means that the weight of the head always falls on the same point of the skull. Muscular control of the head is acquired around the age of 3 months. It is therefore very important to help the infant change its position to avoid this type of deformity due to excess pressure.
TORTICOLIS? Another important factor to consider is the presence of torticollis. Many studies have found that up to 9 out of 10 babies with plagiocephaly have torticollis at the same time. Torticollis needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible in order to start treatment and prevent the possible appearance of plagiocephaly, or to prevent it from getting worse.
IF IT IS NOT TREATED PROMPTLY…
It can lead to serious facial asymmetry, characterised by:
- The head acquires a parallelogram shape.
- The forehead protrudes more on the affected side.
- The position of the eyes is asymmetrical. One eye protrudes more and appears larger.
- The position of the ears is asymmetrical. One ear protrudes more, while the other is further back.
- Not only does it affect one side of the head, but the entire back of the head.
- It consists of a considerably wide, short and flattened head at the back.
- It appears as a consequence of always sleeping on the back.
- It affects bigger and sleepier children more than boys and, like plagiocephaly, it is twice as common in boys as in girls.
- It is also called Dolicocephaly.
- The flattening occurs on both sides of the skull.
- It consists of an elongated and narrow head.
- It occurs especially in premature babies.
- Rarely its cause is positional. They are usually craniosynostosis.
PLAGIOCEPHALY: POSITIONAL OR A CRANEOSINOSTOSIS
What's the difference?
Craniosynostosis is a cranial deformity produced by the early closure of one or more cranial sutures. There are different types depending on the suture affected. It occurs in 1 of every 1,000 newborns, sagittal synostosis being the most frequent (Scaphocephaly). It is very important to differentiate craniosynostosis from cranial deformities of positional origin as positional measures will not be useful to correct the first ones.
Lamboid synostosis is a type of craniosynostosis. This deformity can be confused with positional plagiocephaly as it is also characterised by the presence of a flattening of one of the sides of the head at a posterior level. However, this flattening is not due to a positional cause but to the premature closure of the lamboid suture, which limits the growth of the skull on the affected side.
At a visual level:
- The head acquires a trapezoid-shaped appearance.
- The affected side of the forehead is the opposite of the side that presents the flattening.
- The ears move backwards and downwards.