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What is Plagiocephaly?

Positional plagiocephaly, also known as baby flat head syndrome, is a condition characterised by a flattening on one side of the back of the head.


What is Plagiocephaly?

Positional plagiocephaly, also known as baby flat head syndrome, is a condition characterised by a flattening on one side of the back of the head.


What is Plagiocephaly /Baby Flat Head Syndrome?

Plagiocephaly, also known as ‘Flat Head Syndrome’, is a condition that affects the skull, making the back or side of a baby’s head appear flattened. It may also involve bulging of the forehead, fullness of the cheek and ear misalignment on the same side as the flattening.

There are two types of the condition – Deformational – where the condition is caused by the birth process itself – and Positional – where it occurs post birth. Positional Plagiocephaly is more common.

A baby’s skull is made up of several ‘plates’ of bones which at birth are not tightly joined together. They are soft enough to be moulded by outside forces; this means their shape can be altered by pressure, just lying or sitting in the same position aginst a firm surface can cause flattening usually at the back of a baby’s head.

If you are concerned about the shape of your baby’s head, help and advice is at hand.

Get fast, free help with our flat head diagnosis form

Under the broad term 'Flat Head Syndrome', there are two other head shapes: Brachycephaly and Scaphocephaly. In brachycephaly, the head is wide in relation to its length and appears flat at the back. The head may have a high 'peaked' appearance, and sometimes both sides of the forehead can be bulged. Scaphocephaly is when the head is narrow in relation to length (front to back).

What Causes Flat Head Syndrome?

Positional plagiocephaly can be caused by a number of factors involving positioning, such as extended time spent in a neonatal unit, the birth process, position in the womb and often the infant's preferred sleeping position. It can also be caused by a condition called torticollis.


What is Torticollis?

Torticollis is a condition in which a tight or shortened muscle in one side of the neck causes the head to tilt or turn to one side, resulting in the infant resting its head in the same position. In 2013, we analysed the data from all first appointments in our Kingston clinic and found that 20% of the babies examined had some kind of neck condition that was causing head immobility.


How common is Positional Plagiocephaly?

The NHS does not measure head shapes in infants so we are reliant on other countries for data on this subject. A recent study in Canada found that 46.6% of 440 infants at a two-month well-child clinic had some form of plagiocephaly. Of those with the condition 21.7% had moderate or severe plagiocephaly. Source: The incidence of Positional Plagiocephaly: A Cohort Study. Pediatrics peds. 2012-2009; published online July 8 2013


Treatment Options

If your baby has mild plagiocephaly, repositioning should be sufficient to help naturally resolve the issue. If your baby has moderate or severe plagiocephaly helmet therapy with the LOCband is proven to be very effective at normalising head shape.


Back to Sleep

Although the 'Back to Sleep' campaign has been linked to the increased incidence of positional plagiocephaly, (for more information, see the Diagnosis and Management of Positional Head Deformity) it has saved lives by reducing the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), (more information can be found on The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths). Therefore, babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep.