Many people are unaware of the differences between plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis, and what causes these common conditions. Although they both affect the shape of the skill, quite often, their symptoms can be confused with one another. Plagiocephaly, also known as ﬂat head syndrome, is more common, with severe cases affecting approximately one in 25 infants.
The condition is caused by external pressures on the skull, resulting in the ﬂattening of the baby’s head. In most cases, if caught early, the head shape will improve as the baby grows, and when external forces are reduced through repositioning techniques and less time spent in car seats or bouncy chairs. However, in some cases where moderate to severe plagiocephaly exists, correction may require treatment with a STARband™ helmet. Our orthotists encourage ongoing repositioning, and tummy time, as it helps by taking pressure off any ﬂattened area.
Craniosynostosis is less common, and a more serious condition usually affecting one in 3,000. The condition is caused by gaps between the bones in the head (sutures) fusing or closing early. This can cause pressure in the brain and if left untreated, can inhibit the growth of the brain and cause complications in the future. Craniosynostosis can only be treated with surgery, but following endoscopic procedures, a STARband™ helmet is often used to regain a correct head shape.
The difference between plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis can be very difficult to tell apart visually. However, here are some key signs to look out for (as recommended by the NHS):