Imagine. You notice that the side or back of your baby’s head is starting to look a little flatter than it should. You keep a close eye on it and when it doesn’t go away, you decide to see the pediatrician. When you hear the diagnosis, plagiocephaly, it sounds bad. Maybe you don’t have to imagine because this has already happened. Big medical jargon can be enough to scare just about anyone when it comes to the health of your baby.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the statistics and numbers that might help put your mind at ease.
Prevalence of Plagiocephaly
A common question doctors hear when a family receives a diagnosis of plagiocephaly is how common is it. There was some confusion over just how common it is until recent research shed some light. A 2013 study published in the journal Pediatrics gathered data from the doctor’s visits of 400 infants in Canada. All of the babies were between the ages of 7 and 12 weeks. What they found was surprising. In this sample of babies, almost half (46 percent) met the diagnostic criteria for plagiocephaly.
This means that as many as half of all babies may experience flattening of the head. There have been similar studies that show as much as 61 percent of babies having flattening of the skull.
Plagiocephaly Contributing Factors
According to the International Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery, infant males are 1.3 times more likely to experience plagiocephaly than their female counterparts. The prevalence of positional plagiocephaly has been found to be higher in males than in females, with two-thirds of reported cases from 1991 to 2002 being male. The adjusted odds ratio is 1.3.
Other noted risk factors include a soft skull, multiple order birth, uterine constraint, infant neck problems and a diagnosis of torticollis.
Skull Reshaping Outcomes
Fortunately, the outcomes for plagiocephaly when treated appropriately are very positive. It has been estimated that 25 percent of children who experienced positional plagiocephaly prior to 6 months of age had minor residual flattening at 2–3 years of age. At 3 years of age, this number drops to just 2.4 percent.
Outcomes are impacted by the severity and age of the diagnosis, but in the vast majority of instances, plagiocephaly can be treated very successfully.
Developmental Outcomes with Plagiocephaly
Some studies have shown that kids who experience deformational plagiocephaly have a slightly elevated risk of developmental delays. While no study has been able to pinpoint a causal relationship, the existing data suggest that there is a link. While this might scare some parents, it serves as a helpful guideline for parents.
If your child experiences plagiocephaly at some point in their infancy, it is something to note to teachers and educators. They can help look for warning signs that a child is struggling academically or developmentally. Some children may need a little extra academic assistance. With a little extra help, kids who experience developmental delays have the opportunity for very positive outcomes.
Knowing the facts about plagiocephaly can mean the difference between fear and understanding. This diagnosis doesn’t have to have a negative impact on your child. Gather the information you need and you will have the tools to help your child as best you can.